More Australians than ever are struggling to pay the rent, according to new figures released by Anglicare Australia.
The organisation’s annual Rental Affordability Snapshot showed a severe shortage of affordable rental housing with low income Australians being hit the hardest.
Anglicare’s executive director, Kasy Chambers, said more properties were surveyed this year than ever before.
“More than 65,000 properties. [For] a single person in receipt of the minimum wage, only 2.3 per cent of those properties were available,” Ms Chambers said.
The survey used a 30 per cent benchmark to determine housing affordability.
If a household was paying more than that in rent, it was considered to be under stress.
This year’s snapshot found more than 12 per cent of all Australian households are in that category and a further 6 per cent are in severe housing stress where paying the rent meant having to cut back on other basic expenses — sometimes even food.
In all, Anglicare said 1.6 million Australians struggled to pay the rent last year.
Ms Chambers said it is clear the affordable housing system is broken.
“That’s a really bad situation that tells us that the structure of the private rental market isn’t working,” she said.
“The Federal Government has to take some leadership in this debate.”
Call for overhaul of housing policy
According to Anglicare, people will resort to all sorts of measures when they cannot hold onto housing, including living in overcrowded houses, couch surfing, living in cars or in shelters.
For those that are hanging on, the anxiety peaks every fortnight as they try to scrape up enough money for the rent.
Philip (not his real name) lost his job six weeks ago and is now on the Newstart allowance.
He lives with his 16-year-old son and also receives the Family Tax Benefit.
“It’s a matter of being able to pay the rent,” he said.
“Trying to live on Newstart and even with the Family Tax Benefit, [rent is] $720 a fortnight, which is relatively cheap for a capital city. But we’re struggling.”
The solution according to Ms Chambers is a wholesale overhaul of affordable housing policy.
“What we want is a national plan for affordable housing supported by all levels of government,” she said.
“Key elements of this include: improved housing utility, tax reform, more social housing.”
Anglicare will be taking its message to Parliament House in Canberra later today.