Renters across Australia are facing eviction and homelessness following the end of pandemic support, a new report has warned, with advocates urging the federal government to address the crisis in next week’s Budget.
The grim findings came as the Morrison government announced a scheme to allow 10,000 single parents to buy a home with a deposit of just 2 per cent, ahead of Tuesday’s Budget.
Titled ‘A perfect storm’, the Anglicare Australia report, released on Sunday, reveals a surge in the number of people turning to the organisation’s homelessness services for help with rental arrears.
“Rents are less affordable than ever. Yet the support that had been given to renters at the height of the pandemic is falling away,” the report said.
“Government actions, which seemed so promising at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, have not tackled the twin crises of rental stress and poverty.”
Median national house rents have jumped by four per cent since the start of the pandemic, according to data released in April, and are increasing about three times faster than wages.
Cuts to JobSeeker payments and the end of pandemic rent deferrals and eviction moratoriums, which expired in March in most states and territories, have pushed many renters to “the brink”, Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said.
“We’re seeing renters with bigger and bigger debts. Some have already been given notice to leave their homes,” Ms Chambers said.
“People are turning to homelessness services to keep a roof over their head. Many are also going to payday lenders. That will only lead to more hardship and debt.”
Ms Chambers called on the Morrison government to urgently boost social welfare payments to mitigate the affordable housing crisis.
“We need action in next week’s Budget. We need to lift JobSeeker and other payments above the poverty line,” she said.
“If we don’t, people out of work will be pushed deeper into housing stress and even homelessness.”
Sunday’s report followed the release of Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Snapshot in April, which surveyed 74,266 rental listings across Australia.
The snapshot found that just 1.2 percent of rentals were affordable for a person earning the minimum wage, 0.5 percent were affordable for a person on the Age Pension, and 0.3 percent were affordable for a person on the Disability Support Pension.
Just three rentals across the nation, all sharehouses, were affordable for a person on JobSeeker, while none were affordable for a person on Youth Allowance, the survey revealed.
Kate Colvin, national spokesperson for the Everybody’s Home campaign, urged the government to use the Budget to “fire the starter’s gun on building half a million new social and affordable rental homes cross Australia”.
“There is no better public investment than social and affordable housing. We have a rapidly accelerating homelessness problem,” Ms Colvin said.
“The government should also rethink planned cuts to homelessness services. Next week’s Budget is due to cut $56.7 million from this critical support right when we need it most.”