There is a “distressing” lack of affordable housing options in Canberra, according to Anglicare’s latest rental affordability snapshot, which found essentially no affordable, appropriate properties for a number of groups on income support payments.
The organisation deems affordable housing costs to comprise 30% or less of household income, taking its snapshot of the 1,085 advertised rentals in Canberra and Queanbyean on the weekend of 26 March.
Just five properties met the criteria for a family receiving JobSeeker payments, and four for a single parent with two children receiving parenting payments.
For a single person receiving Youth Allowance, the snapshot found no affordable properties in the ACT or Queanbeyan – including share houses.
“This shows a deeply flawed housing system from which there is little or no relief on the horizon for low-income families,” said Anglicare ACT chief executive, Jeremy Halcrow.
He said COVID-19 has seen people flocking to the regions, including Canberra, putting pressure on housing affordability.
“This has impacted low-income families more than other group[s] as demand for family-size housing has gone through the roof,” he said.
“The wider southern NSW region is also impacted by a reduction in supply caused by the 2020 bushfires.”
Just 3% of properties were deemed affordable for a couple on the age pension and 2% for singles, which is the same for someone on the Disability Support Penson.
This is Anglicare’s first snapshot since the Federal Government removed the coronavirus supplements for income support payments.
ACT a ‘landlord’s paradise’
The ACT is the most expensive Australian capital city to rent privately, according to data recently released by Domain. The median weekly rent has hit $600 for a house and $500 for a unit – record-high prices for the ACT – described in Anglicare’s report as a “landlord’s and seller’s paradise”.
The vacancy rate has also fallen to around 0.7%, forcing fierce competition for available properties.
ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) CEO Emma Campbell said the lack of affordable options means low-income Canberrans are forced to accept tenancy agreements that place them in financial stress.
“This can lead to situations where they are forced to forgo heating, fresh food, or medical appointments in order to keep up with rent,” said Dr Campbell.
“The removal of the [Federal Government’s coronavirus] supplement leaves them below the poverty line in a city with the highest rents of any capital city in Australia.”
Anglicare’s snapshot from March last year painted a grim picture for housing affordability even with government stimulus, with a comparison of the pre-supplement snapshot with post-supplement payment amounts demonstrating a permanent increase to income support payments could not curb the affordability crisis in the capital alone.
Figures released earlier this month by consortium Everybody’s Home predicted homelessness in the ACT to rise by 7.8% this year and housing stress to increase by 23.7%.
“There needs to be significant government commitments to increase public housing, provide greater protections for tenants, and make the coronavirus increases to the Jobseeker supplements permanent,” said Anglicare’s Mr Halcrow.