The head of Australia’s peak real estate body declared on national television this week that those struggling with exorbitant rents should “get two jobs”, but tenants advocates say it’s not so simple.
One advocate dismissed the comments as “coldhearted” and “unrealistic”, telling The New Daily they demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the job market and of the economic realities facing Australians more generally.
The comments were made by Malcolm Gunning, president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia, a body that has a vested interest in property and rental prices staying high.
In an interview with ABC’s 7.30 broadcast on Thursday, Mr Gunning denied the existence of a rental affordability crisis in Australia.
“I don’t accept there’s a rental affordability crisis. Most of the stats are focused on Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne,” the inner-city Sydney real estate agent said.
“If you want to live on the fringe of the city, it’s affordable. If you want to live closer in the city, it is expensive.”
For those unable to move away from the city, Mr Gunning’s advice was to pick up a second job.
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The nation's top real estate agent says people unable to pay the rent should get two jobs or move to Adelaide or Perth.
Malcolm Gunning says there isn't an 'affordability crisis' because most of the stats only focus on Sydney, Brisbane & Melbourne. pic.twitter.com/lCovZa4cjj
— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) September 6, 2018
“Do the hard yards. Maybe even, God forbid, get two jobs. Okay? Now your viewers will hate that. But many, many people do it. A lot of our migrants work a couple of jobs,” he told the ABC.
Now, affordable housing advocates have hit back, telling The New Daily that in many cases affordable rental properties simply aren’t available, and neither are jobs.
Not-for-profit Anglicare’s rental affordability snapshot is a survey of the 67,365 properties listed for rent on March 24, 2018.
Anglicare found that only 28 per cent of properties available across Australia would be affordable for low-income-earners, and only 6 per cent for those on government benefits.
Anglicare executive Kasy Chambers said that renting in Australia is now “so unaffordable” that many people on low-incomes working full-time are unable to afford rent in areas close to their jobs, citing the example of minimum-wage earning airport security workers.
Anglicare’s Jobs Availability Snapshot also found that “there are not enough entry level positions for the people who need them”, and that “people with significant barriers to work are not benefiting from the recent boom in full-time employment”.
The SGS Economics & Planning 2018 Rental Affordability Index shows that in many parts of the country there are no affordable rental options for low-income earners, pensioners, people with a disability, and those on benefits.
A single pensioner would need to spend 94 per cent of their income to afford a rental property in Greater Sydney, the report found, while those on New Start would have to spend 144 per cent of their income to afford a roof over their heads.
Mr Gunning’s claims ignore the reality faced by many Australians, Tenants’ Union of NSW senior policy offer Leo Patterson Ross said
“It’s a coldhearted way of approaching the issue and unrealistic advice,” he told The New Daily.
“Many people already are working as much as they can, they might well be commuting a long way, and don’t have more hours in the day.”
Mr Patterson Ross said that telling renters in cities to get a second job will not solve the issues created by Australia’s private rental market and lack of public housing.
“Ultimately even if you do get a second job and we don’t fix the structural issues that money will get eaten up by higher rents,” he said.
Conversations about rental affordability must consider the most vulnerable members of Australian society, not only those on a comfortable wage, Mr Patterson Ross said.
“You can’t just look at the average, which includes higher income people, and say it’s not a problem. We wouldn’t do that with a health crisis, just look at the healthy people, or average out the healthy people, and say you’re fine. We have to look at the people affected by the problem.”