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Monday, April 12, 2021

Rental snapshot paints grim picture amidst pandemic

The annual Rental Affordability Snapshot from Anglicare has once again highlighted the lack of affordable housing for low income households in the ACT and Queanbeyan.

This year’s report comes as people grapple with the fallout from COVID-19 and the summer bushfires, including job losses and reduced working hours. The Snapshot results contain two sets of findings this year; the number of affordable housing options taken in the Snapshot, and an analysis of how this would change if temporary increases to government income payments were made permanent.

The 2020 Snapshot, taken on 21 March, shows there were no affordable private rental properties for people on Jobseeker payments, as well as parenting payments, Youth Allowance and the Disability Support Pension. Just 4% of properties were affordable for someone on minimum wage, and 1.3% for someone on the Age Pension – 0.5% for a couple.

Anglicare determines a suitable rent to be one which costs less than 30% of the household income.

According to the Snapshot, even with a permanent increase to income support payments, ACT and Queanbeyan households would still struggle to find appropriate housing. A single person on the JobSeeker payment would find 2.5% of properties affordable, while a couple on JobSeeker with two children would still not be able to afford a suitable home to rent.

The report notes that while an increase of $550 a fortnight is substantial for those on the lowest incomes, the improvements make “little difference” in the ACT market, and while Queanbeyan is a more affordable option for people living and working in the region, Canberra’s tight market is affecting affordability across the border. 

Anglicare’s Amy Lanham said the report shows the housing situation in the ACT and Queanbeyan is “dire”. She said the numbers over the least 11 years have always shown a severe lack of available housing, with an overall deterioration in affordability over time.

“Low income families and people relying on government support have virtually no opportunity to find housing in the private rental market,” she said.

Anglicare has welcomed recent moves from both Federal and ACT Governments to increase support payments and strengthen protections for renters. However, Ms Lanham said more affordable housing options are needed.

The ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) also welcomed the additional investments, but CEO Emma Campbell called on governments to maintain the increased levels of income support, as well as for more social housing.

“As we look to the economic and social recovery, housing affordability, homelessness and a strong welfare safety net need to be central to any stimulus package,” Dr Campbell said.

“Furthermore, all new private and social housing should be built to standards that meet the needs of older people and people with disabilities so that all Canberrans can live in an affordable, safe and appropriate home.”

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