IN the run-up to this year’s Federal Budget on May 9, an annual survey shows that rental affordability for low-income owners has reached crisis point.
In Queensland, where more people rent than in any other state, the eighth annual rental affordability snapshot released by Anglicare tallies with evidence from the St Vincent de Paul Society that low-income earners and welfare recipients are being forced onto the streets because of high rents.
The St Vincent de Paul Society has just opened Cornerstone at Southport on the Gold Coast, an early-intervention centre to try to curb increasing numbers of homeless.
“It has one of the highest percentages of homeless people in Queensland,” the society’s South Coast diocesan president Noel Sweeney said.
“The Gold Coast is an expensive place to live. The rents are very high.
“And people come here expecting to find employment and there’s not.
“We’ve got 1400 people living rough each night, families sleeping in cars, mainly women and children escaping domestic violence.
“Our major focus is to keep people in accommodation.”
Recent data shows that one in six Gold Coast households are experiencing housing stress and are at risk of homelessness.
That data is mirrored by figures in the Anglicare survey that found rent virtually unaffordable for those on low incomes or welfare.
The Rental Affordibility Snapshot underlines the inadequacy of welfare payments such as Newstart and the desperation many low-income families face just trying to pay for a roof over their head.
Other issues are tied to finding a suitable home to rent.
The Anglicare report assumes that a family with two children would require a three-bedroom property and that “share accommodation” is also not suitable for couples or families except for couples on an aged pension.
The report also assumes that, for a property to be affordable, the rent should be less than 30 per cent of household income.
In Brisbane, the snapshot found only households with at least two minimum wages can afford to rent from the Brisbane private rental market without placing themselves into undue financial stress.
“Low-income earners continue to face significant rental stress if they have to rely on the private rental market in Brisbane,” the Anglicare snapshot said.
“This is especially true for low-income earners reliant on government allowances.”
The survey also looked at places in Central Queensland – Rockhampton, Gladstone and Emerald – which each recorded an increase in the number of households on income support payments, which is likely due to a downturn in the region’s mining industry with flow-on effects to local businesses and therefore increased unemployment.
The snapshot found 362 less properties available than in the same communities last year, which may reflect a removal of properties from the rental market as part of population changes in response to the decline in the local economy.
Across Australia, Anglicare found that of the 67,651 dwellings available for rent on one weekend last month, only six per cent were suitable for households on government benefits.