ACT News

20,000 Canberra households feel the pain of housing affordability stress

About 20,000 households in the ACT face housing stress and single parent households are among the hardest hit, new research has found.

Housing stress, defined as when individuals spend more than 30 per cent of their pay packet on housing costs, affects in two in every five single parent households in the ACT and the research found "a significant intersection" between gender inequality and housing inequality.

ACT Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar says children in financially distressed households often miss out on ...
ACT Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar says children in financially distressed households often miss out on activities such as sport. Photo: Jay Cronan

The report, set to be released on Wednesday by the Housing and Homelessness Policy Consortium, brings together work by peak bodies gearing up to make housing an election issue in 2016.

Its members include ACT Shelter, the ACT Council of Social Service, the Youth Coalition and Women's Centre for Health Matters. The report includes findings from a phone poll of 1000 adults in the ACT and population and economic modelling.

It found 13 per cent of all ACT households faced housing stress, about 19,600 households in the ACT.

About 6600 households in the lowest 40 per cent of combined household income found their rent or mortgage payments quite or very difficult to pay in the past three months.

Households in the lowest 40 per cent were defined as having a combined gross income of $100,000 a year or less. Weekly rent and mortgage repayments, after deducting government rent assistance, was collected to calculate housing stress.

About 7000 households in the lowest 40 per cent of income earners reported that they compromised a lot on food and household grocery bought in the past year because of financial pressures, while 7200 said they compromised a lot on health and medical treatments.

About 10,400 reported compromising a lot on the quality or location of their home.

The report said community service workers, health and welfare workers, childcare workers, hospitality staff and sales assistants were significantly more likely to to face housing stress, while single parent families, renters and those work outside of public services were particularly over-represented.

More than one in five workers in the private sector live in households facing housing stress, compared with 8 per cent of workers in the ACT public service and 2 per cent of workers in the federal public service.

People working in casual and temporary part-time positions are significantly more likely to live in households facing housing stress.

ACT Shelter executive officer Travis Gilbert said as housing costs rose as a proportion of pay packets, families and single parents were forced to compromise on other priorities.

"Economic diversification has long been viewed as critical to ensure the future prosperity of Canberra," Mr Gilbert said.

"Diversification means growing private sector jobs, particularly in our service industries. Our research found workers in the retail and personal service industries were up 20 times more likely to struggle to meet housing costs than workers in the public service." 

The research showed there of 149,300 households in the ACT, of which about 47,800 were couple parent households with children. About 15,200 were single parent households, 1800 were family households and 40,300 were couples.

About 35,700 were single person homes and 8500 were group homes.

ACT Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar said compromising on essential spending was a significant concern to the community.

"These compromises are not about missing out on dinner out or downgrading a holiday," she said.

"They are largely single-parent households being unable to provide children with any extra-curricular activities like sport and music with their peers. This can have a significant impact on development, education attainment, wellbeing and inclusion."