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Canberra's rental crisis 'worst' of any city in the country


Stephanie Anderson

The price Canberra pays ... very few homes are suitable for low-income earners.

The price Canberra pays ... very few homes are suitable for low-income earners. Photo: Andrew Sheargold

Canberra's rental affordability crisis has been labelled the worst for any city in the country after a property snapshot found there was ''virtually no affordable housing'' available for low-income earners in the ACT.

Fewer than 140 listed properties suitable for a variety of low-income earners were recorded for the Canberra and Queanbeyan area in Anglicare Australia's annual Rental Affordability Snapshot, issued today.

The snapshot involved an audit of newspapers and real estate websites for private rental accommodation, undertaken by Anglicare Australia network members, who surveyed more than 65,000 properties across the country on April 14.

Housing snapshot reveals a rental crisis in Canberra.

Housing snapshot reveals a rental crisis in Canberra.

In Canberra, no available and appropriate properties were recorded for renters in eight of the 12 categories of low-income earners.

Anglicare ACT general manager Jenny Kitchen said the capital's rental affordability crisis was ''off the chart'', forcing some people to choose between accommodation and regular meals.

''There is no other major urban centre in Australia that is unable to supply any affordable housing for families on a minimum-wage income,'' she said.

The closest available properties listed for single parents on the minimum wage were more than an hour's drive away - in Harden, Marulan and Goulburn. Since the snapshot was taken, two of the properties had been taken off the market.

Throughout the capital and Queanbeyan, there were no available properties suitable for a single people on NewStart, Youth Allowance and Austudy; couples on the aged pension; couples on NewStart with two children; or single parents receiving parenting payments.

Furthermore, every property found was a single room in shared accommodation, with the exception of 20 properties available to families with two minimum-wage incomes.

Ms Kitchen said share houses were not suitable for all singles seeking accommodation, including the growing number of elderly people.

''There are a number of old people who have been housed in public housing, but not all of them have been eligible,'' she said.

''They fall between the cracks.''

With 40 per cent of the Canberra workforce employed by the public sector, Ms Kitchen said the community was, on average, able to afford high rents. She said people used to be able to find affordable accommodation across the border in Queanbeyan, but it too had rental prices quickly approaching the unaffordability of Canberra housing.

''Quite often as a result, people start to crowd together,'' she said.

''You can have 11 people trying to bunk down in one house. It's certainly not ideal.''

ACT Shelter executive officer Leigh Watson said the high rates of private rents also pushed some people on public housing waiting lists into dire financial situations.

''Housing costs have increased 63 per cent in Canberra over the last six years and the ACT now has the highest private rental market of all states and territories,'' she said. ''So for these people on the waiting list, paying private rent in such a market - and having enough left over for basic necessities - is impossible.''

Anglicare Australia's snapshot said the ongoing lack of affordable housing was threatening to splinter Australia's good economic standing.

''The National Housing Supply Council has projected a shortfall in physical dwellings currently of 186,000, but this is to blow out to 640,000 by 2030,'' it stated.

Anglicare Australia is calling for changes to taxation and superannuation rules to encourage more investment in affordable housing at a national level. ''Too much of the focus is on affordability for owner-occupiers,'' she said. ''The really desperate problem is for low-income earners in the private rental market … There is an onus on the ACT government to continue to provide incentives to developers to help create a mix of housing stock right across Canberra.''

Ms Kitchen said the review of ACT taxation should be used to consider how to generate more funds to support accessible housing options.


twitter This reporter is on Twitter: @stephanieando

32 comments so far

  • thanks ACT Labor. thanks HIA. thanks Village Building Company.

    your greed has created a city the average person can't afford to live in.

    Date and time
    April 30, 2012, 8:42AM
    • Says its all. What really grates is that this one-man ACT Government has been permitted to build an inane and expensive arboretum as a monument to himself.

      Date and time
      April 30, 2012, 9:39AM
    • Jen, I fully agree with you.

      It's the pure greed of ACT Labor, of HIA, and of Village Building Company that has made Canberra unaffordable to live in.

      And don't forget the greedy investors who own these dog boxes. And why do we, the taxpayers, have to support defence housing and pay defence personnel's excess rent?

      If the Gillard government wants to get back into the black, they should be cutting the numbers of defence personnel in Australia. That's a huge rort in Australia, the question has to be asked, why are husband and wife defence personnel allowed to work in the same offices in Canberra?

      Housing is over the top in Canberra, prices are stupid, rental prices are over the top, so why are the taxpayers still subsidising defence housing? Why aren't we given the same luxuries?

      Cut back on the excess Air Force personnel, especially in Canberra, and cut their excessive overseas "corporate" travel and just maybe the rest of us won't have to put up with Gillard's obsession with the surplus.

      Date and time
      April 30, 2012, 9:43AM
  • Darwin is facing the same rental issues with private rental rates increasing by up to $100 per week now that the INPEX project has begun; everything has gone up but not salaries. Power costs have dramatically increased too even before Julia's damn carbon tax is introduced; I can appreciate what Canberrans are going through

    dave in darwin
    Date and time
    April 30, 2012, 9:51AM
    • I am an aged pensioner and my rent/income ratio is 60%. I estimate my savings will run out in 4 years.

      Long Memory
      Date and time
      April 30, 2012, 10:00AM
      • Anglicare should sponsor couples and singles with children to move to Brisbane, as well those on pensions. I can't see the situation improving in Canberra... it would be the kindest and most practicable thing to provide a moving truck, a flight, a bond payment, and help getting a lease in Brisbane. Then they could concentrate on the unemployed.

        the yabba
        Date and time
        April 30, 2012, 10:29AM
        • And this is why I had to move from Canberra to Melbourne just this month. Canberra is way too unaffordable when it comes to the rental properties.

          Date and time
          April 30, 2012, 12:00PM
          • Why the hell would two adults be on new start with two kids. I'm sick of this, I have never seen an easier place to get work that in the ACT. Why doesn't this include Qeaunbyan, or do these people not only expect me to pay part of their rent but also 'prefered housing'. Yes rents and housing is high in the ACT, but it is comprable to wage and job opportunities. there is alos the option to move to outter areas in NSW and come in to work -yes you can drive more than 20 mins for work, its what most people do.

            Date and time
            April 30, 2012, 12:04PM
            • Completely agree.

              Are they serious? An entire family living off welfare – surely one out of the two adults is capable of getting a job (any job!) And with children, surely it's a question of either not having them or working hard to provide for them (all the more reason to get a job). This is surely how welfare dependency spreads from one generation to the next. What terrible role models!

              Makes me sick
              Date and time
              May 01, 2012, 9:43AM
            • Agreed Tom!

              Date and time
              May 02, 2012, 11:25AM

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