Everybody needs a safe and secure place to call home. But our housing system is letting down our most vulnerable.
We don’t have enough secure, affordable rentals. And we fear people are slipping through the net and ending up homeless.
New research released on 29 April 2019 by Anglicare Sydney reveals that while there were more listings of rental properties compared to last year, less than 1% of those properties were affordable for people on low incomes in Greater Sydney and the Illawarra.
An increase in properties listed for rent would be expected to improve affordability in a tight rental market and provide more options for renters. However, the proportion of applicable and appropriate properties for households dependent on government benefits has remained unchanged since last year. It has not resulted in a proportionate increase in affordable and appropriate properties to rent for people on low incomes.
Anglicare Sydney’s Rental Affordability Snapshot analysed more than 23,900 rental properties that were available in Greater Sydney and the Illawarra region on the weekend of 23-24 March 2019.
Of the 23,921 properties advertised, only 66 were affordable and appropriate for families with two children on income support payments without placing them into rental stress; 50 affordable and appropriate properties were in Greater Sydney and 16 were located in the Illawarra.
The report reveals that many on supported incomes are still struggling to keep a roof over their heads. For many, it means spending 30% or more of their income in rent, pushing them into rental stress.
For those struggling below the poverty line on income support, that doesn’t leave much for food, utilities, transport costs and unexpected bills. In some instances, trying to maintain a home in the private rental market can entrench people in financial need, and hinder families from breaking that cycle of disadvantage.
No rental properties in Sydney and the Illawarra were affordable and appropriate for single people on the Parenting Payment, Disability Pension, Newstart or Youth Allowance.
There were few suitable properties available for other household types, including:
- singles on the Aged Pension (7 properties)
- couples with two children on Newstart (11 properties)
- single parents with two children on the Parenting Payment (1 property)
NSW is currently facing a shortage of 200,000 affordable rental dwellings for households on low incomes, with population growth and demographic change increasing this shortfall to 300,000 dwellings by 2040. Across Sydney, only 50% of the demand for affordable rental dwellings is currently being met.
We believe there are five key policy areas to improve housing affordability and conditions for low income households:
1. An increase in social and affordable rental housing stock
a. All levels of government agree to a formal five-year plan with numerical targets to increase the supply of social housing in NSW, with a commitment to the provision of at least 20,000 new social housing dwellings in the State by 2025.
b. Through the use of, and adjustment to, planning controls, State and Local Governments must ensure no net loss in public and social housing in each local government area.
c. The level of affordable housing in rezoned developments under the Greater Sydney Commission Plan be revised from 5-10% to between 15-30% in developments on government land.
2. Increased Government commitment to affordable housing
a. Dedicated Ministers to housing and homelessness needed
b. Federal Government needs to establish an independent housing specialist entity to gather and analyse data on housing supply, demand and affordability in Australia
3. Improvements to income support rates and indexing
a. Independent Federal body is required to review the adequacy of all government allowances to ensure that payments are sufficiently indexed and adequately calculated to increase the capacity of individuals to enter the workforce and alleviate housing stress for low and medium income households
b. The Federal Government needs to immediately increase:
i. Newstart by $75 a week
ii. Commonwealth Rent Assistance by $40 per fortnight
4. Review of housing taxes and concessions
a. Modify tax system accordingly to improve affordability
5. Improving conditions in the private rental market for renters
a. NSW State Gov’t review the residential tenancy law and modify it to ensure greater security of tenure for private renters and tighter regulation on rental increases, including prohibition of ‘no cause’ evictions.
For too many of people, paying the rent means they can’t afford to eat decent food, fill a prescription, pay for transport, or buy clothes. Instead of supporting them to live, keeping a roof over their heads often mean entrenching many in poverty.
And now older Australians are getting stuck in expensive and insecure rentals – at a time in their life when stability is more important than ever.
Anglicare Sydney is building affordable rental properties for older people, runs a housing assistance program for older people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; and SHIFT, a housing transition program for refugee families or families experiencing domestic violence.
But many more homes are desperately needed.
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