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Why Aussies are being squeezed out of the rental market

Jessica Yun
An apartment unit block used by the welfare and housing government agencies in Australia. <i>(Photographer: Christopher Freeman via Getty)</i>
An apartment unit block used by the welfare and housing government agencies in Australia. (Photographer: Christopher Freeman via Getty)

Most of Australia’s affordable rental housing market is unavailable to most of Australia’s low-income earners, Anglicare’s latest rental Affordability Snapshot report has revealed.

The 2019 Snapshot, which surveyed 69,000 rental listings across the nation, found only 2.2 per cent of the private housing market is considered ‘affordable’ and ‘appropriate’ for single Australians on the minimum wage.

If you’re a couple with two children on Newstart Allowances, 98.9 per cent of rentals are not affordable or appropriate.

And if you’re single on a Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, the numbers are even worse: zero per cent of rentals are in reach.

What is ‘affordable’?

A rental property is considered affordable for low-income earners when the rent is no more than 30 per cent of their income so as to not fall into rental stress.

A ‘suitable’ or ‘appropriate’ rental property is appropriate to the number of people in the household.

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers described Australian housing as “broken”, with the affordability crisis even more severe than last year.

In 2018, 4.4 per cent of rentals were deemed affordable for a couple on the age pension and 0.8 per cent of rentals affordable for those on the parenting payment. That’s versus only 3.2 per cent and 0.5 per cent this year respectively.

“There is a huge shortage of secure, affordable rentals. That’s causing record levels of rental stress and even homelessness,” Chambers said.

Have you been squeezed out the rental market?

If you’re a low-income earner, here’s how much of the rental market is in reach for you:

<i>Source: Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot 2019</i>
Source: Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot 2019

The report points out that wages have not increased in line with living expenses, and thanks to soaring housing costs, competition in the rental market is rife.

In fact, Chambers said Australia has a “massive” social housing shortfall, with 300,000 new social properties needed across the nation.

“People on the lowest incomes are being squeezed out of the rental market,” Chambers said. “That’s why it’s urgent that we invest in social housing.”

The government needs to step up

While governments in Australia used to strongly invest in social housing to meet need, in recent years governments have withdrawn from this responsibility, the report said.

Rent assistance has also failed to provide enough affordable options for Australia’s low-income earners, it said.

“In walking away from social housing, the government seems to have assumed that the private rental market would provide enough affordable housing for those who need it. That has been shown to be utterly false,” the report said.

“Put simply, rent assistance has failed to keep the private rental market affordable.”

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