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Monday, April 12, 2021

Dire rental snapshot prompts calls to raise welfare rates

For local couple Mark and Ellie*, having stable and affordable accommodation would mean the world. The couple earn minimum wage and have two children and say stable accommodation would mean they “could start saving and thinking about our future”.

“We’ve taught the kids to be economical with water and electricity and we make good use of second-hand clothes but sometimes that’s not enough.”

Anglicare says just 10 available rental listings are affordable for the couple and, after the organisation’s mid-year Rental Affordability Snapshot update painted a grim picture of housing affordability nationally, is calling on the Federal Government to permanently raise the rate of welfare payments.  

The Snapshot surveyed nearly 77,000 rental listings across Australia and found just 1% of private rentals were affordable for someone receiving JobSeeker payments – even with the rates effectively doubled. Affordability has deteriorated since March when the last Snapshot was taken.

“For people on the lowest incomes, rentals are even less affordable than they were back in March,” said Anglicare Australia executive director, Kasy Chambers.

“Most of the price drops are at the higher end of the market. At the same time, more and more people are competing for cheap housing. That’s squeezing people out of the market. With 1.6 million people locked out of work, the new rate of JobSeeker is the only thing keeping them afloat.”

Ms Chambers said if JobSeeker returned to its original rate, just 13 properties across the country would be suitable for those receiving the payment. She said the proposed cut to the coronavirus supplement later this month would see just 168 rentals (0.2%) of properties suitable for recipients.

The Snapshot found fewer than 1% of properties are affordable for a person on the Age Pension or the Disability Support Pension, both of which have not seen an increase to payment rates during the pandemic.

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has previously urged the Federal Government to reconsider the proposed cuts to JobSeeker later this month, with the changes set to affect 23,000 Canberrans.

ACTCOSS CEO Emma Campbell said the new JobSeeker and Youth Allowance payments, including the coronavirus supplement, should be “kept in place until our social security system is fixed for good so that it keeps people out of poverty”.

JobSeeker, previously known as Newstart, was effectively doubled in April in response to the pandemic with a $550 coronavirus supplement, which is set to be decreased to $250 from 25 September.

*Names have been changed.

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