YWCA Canberra has launched Rentwell, a charitable property management service providing affordable rent for people on low incomes in the ACT.
Rentwell is looking for Canberrans to rent their investment properties to YWCA for less than market value for a tenant in need of affordable housing, in return for a tax exemption.
YWCA Canberra CEO Frances Crimmins says the model will support people in housing stress, who are often locked out of the private rental market due to high prices and competition.
She says the priority cohort at this stage is older women, followed by single-headed households with children, although housing is not exclusive to these groups.
YWCA is a registered community housing provider, and has provided housing and homelessness services for over 60 years. Rentwell has been designed to assist those who are unable to rent in the private market for economic reasons.
“What we really want property owners to understand is we’re not housing people who need support services. That’s what social housing is for … So [Rentwell] really is an early intervention and will stop … more people requiring to go on the public [housing] waiting list.”
Ms Crimmins says older women are the fastest growing demographic of homelessness in Australia, with a 31% increase at the most recent census, and a 97% increase of older women in the private rental market since 2006.
“So it’s lack of superannuation; they’ve primarily been caregivers most of their life, women are paid lower, and particularly that demographic, the work they would’ve done would’ve been lower paid. So they find themselves retiring into poverty.”
Through Rentwell, property owners would sign a head lease agreement with YWCA Canberra, which would ensure rent is paid for the life of the lease. YWCA then identifies suitable tenants to sub-lease the property to, and takes care of the property management for a flat fee. Owners then apply for a land tax exemption through the ACT Revenue Office and are provided with a deductible gift receipt from YWCA for the foregone rent.
“We are so confident in our tenants’ ability to pay rent when it’s affordable, and [be] exemplary tenants,” Ms Crimmins says.
The launch of the model comes after the release of Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Snapshot last month, revealing only a tiny percentage of private rental properties in the ACT would be suitable for people on low incomes or income support payments. Rent is considered unaffordable if it comprises more than 30% of household income.
The Rentwell model is under a pilot program until June 2021, capped at 100 properties. YWCA was awarded grants from the Mercy Foundation and Beyond Bank, with a view for Rentwell to be self-sustainable in three years’ time.