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When even a shed is not affordable

Apr 30, 2014, 09:00 AM by Anglicare Australia

On the release of the national Rental Affordability Snapshot 2014 at Parliament House today, Anglicare Australia Executive Director, Kasy Chambers has called for an increase in affordable housing and a dedicated federal housing and homelessness minister.

“For people on the lowest incomes, those most vulnerable in the community, our Snapshot found that rental affordability is still virtually at zero,” Ms Chambers said.

“That is particularly disturbing given the number of houses advertised for rent has increased since the last Snapshot in April last year. It looks like we are seeing a growing divide in housing options between those well-off and those who are not.”

Now in its 5th year, the Snapshot highlights the lived experience of looking for housing while on a low income. It focuses on the Australian population who earn the least income – Commonwealth benefit recipients and minimum wage earners.

“Housing affordability for single parents on Newstart allowance is less than 1%, while for single people on youth allowance or Newstart, it is literally zero right across Australia,” Ms Chambers said. “Even a single person on the higher aged pension could afford only 1% of properties for rent, and a disability pensioner half of that.

“This is not simply a theoretical issue. Our Snapshot found that even a shed in the Northern Territory is not affordable for someone on a low income. Here we have hard evidence of Australia’s housing crisis today, and yet tomorrow, with the release of the Commission of Audit report, we may find that people most affected will be expected to foot the Budget deficit bill.

“The lack of affordable housing impacts on the lives of everyday people, and with over five million supported by the safety net, it’s a lot of lives dramatically shaped every day by this immediate and critical issue.

“Limited supply does more than just drive up the price of housing. It forces those on lower incomes to spend more on rent than they can afford; compels them to forgo food and other necessities; and drives them further away from social and economic participation.

“Australia needs a dedicated housing minister, in Cabinet. Housing is the focus of one of only six national agreements, and yet we don’t have a federal minister to orchestrate and deliver a comprehensive housing plan that would enable all Australians to access affordable housing.

“We also need government to work in partnership with the community and housing sectors, to grow the supply of public, community and private rental housing affordable to people living on low incomes. While there is no one easy answer, the problem is far too big to ignore.”

For the purposes of this Snapshot, an affordable rental is one that takes up less than 30% of the household’s income, a commonly used benchmark of affordability. Household incomes are derived from the maximum rate of Centrelink benefit or the minimum wage (after tax), combined with the Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) and Family Tax Benefits (FTB), where applicable. These affordable data points are compared with the listed rentals on the snapshot collection day.