Latest figures show that it’s time to rethink rent assistance

Anglicare Australia is today releasing Reforming Rent Assistance, a paper showing that rental stress is rife in spite of billions spent on Commonwealth Rent Assistance.

The paper finds that:

  • One in two people who get rent assistance (46%) are still in rental stress
  • Young people fare even worse, with two in three young people on rent assistance (60%) still in rental stress
  • The payment leaves out people on the lowest incomes. Only one in three people on the JobSeeker payment is eligible for the payment (38%), and only one in ten young people out of work (12%)
  • Almost no rental vacancies are affordable for people who get rent assistance.

The report is released at the same time as the latest numbers from the Productivity Commission, which show that the Government spends more than three times as much on rent assistance ($4.9 billion) than on social housing and homelessness services combined ($1.6 billion).

“Australia’s housing crisis has never been more dire. Rents in our major cities have reached record highs, and people are being priced out of regions and towns,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“Our agencies have told us about families living in tents, people sleeping in their cars, and pensioners living out their retirement in sharehouses because it’s all they can afford.

“Commonwealth Rent Assistance is supposed to help people cope. But one in two people who get the payment are still in rental stress. Young people fare even worse, with two in three who get the payment still in rental stress.

“Worse still, the people on the lowest incomes are locked out getting help. Only one in three people on the JobSeeker payment are eligible, and only one in ten looking for work on Youth Allowance.

“We’re calling for a rethink of rent assistance, a renewed focus on the solutions that work.”

Ms Chambers said the crisis won’t be solved with rent assistance alone, and called for a boost to social housing.

“When this payment was introduced, it was supposed to save money on social housing. That approach has failed. Numbers out today show that the Federal Government spends three times as much on Commonwealth Rent Assistance than on social housing and homelessness programs combined.

“We need a big boost to social housing. Our shortfall is massive. We need 500,000 new social and affordable rentals across Australia. Investing in social housing is the most powerful way to make housing more affordable.

“If we don’t end the shortfall, the crisis will keep getting worse and the bill for rent assistance will keep ballooning. It’s time to take real action and end this crisis for good.”

Click here to download Reforming Rent Assistance.