Research to be published by Anglicare shows the ACT struggles to provide low income housing. Photo: Dean Osland
Welfare groups are calling on the federal and ACT governments to boost assistance for renters struggling to afford housing.
Research to be published by Anglicare Australia on Monday found no affordable and appropriate properties available in nine of the 13 low-income categories in Canberra, including single parents receiving parenting payments and youth allowance recipients.
The agency is urging the federal government to increase rent assistance and redefine ''affordable'' for National Rental Affordability Scheme properties, stating that 75 per cent of market rent is unaffordable for the poor.
Ongoing housing problems are hitting the region's single parents particularly hard, said Anglicare ACT director Jenny Kitchin.
''It's not surprising they have to turn to charities like Anglicare to put food on the kids' dinner plates,'' she said.
''We are also aware of situations where single parents are moving in with other families - living together in two or three-bedroom units - in order to share the rental cost. In one example three adults, three teenagers and two younger children are living together in a small flat.''
Researchers found the cheapest rent for a two-bedroom property in the region was $220 a week, which accounted for 46 per cent of the income of a single parent on Newstart with an eight-year-old child.
The report also said increasing prices across the border had tightened the rental market for low earners in the capital:
''Queanbeyan, which in past decades was the solution to affordable housing for Canberra workers, now has rental prices approaching the unaffordability levels in Canberra.
''Persons employed in lower-paid industries or reliant on Centrelink benefits have next to no options in this market.''
Housing affordability is worsening throughout the capital, according to ACT Shelter executive officer Leigh Watson, who said it took more than six times the average income to afford the median house price in Canberra.
Ms Watson said the agency had called on the ACT government to provide additional funding to Canberrans receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
''CRA is the same amount wherever you live, but the average rent paid by people who are in receipt of CRA in the ACT is the highest in the country,'' she said.
''This increased by an average of 13 per cent between 2008 and 2010 whereas CRA has not increased to keep pace with this increase.''
ACT Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT government used a range of measures to help with housing problems, but did not directly provide rent assistance.
Mr Barr said steps had been taken to improve housing affordability in the capital, but the government still recognised the situation facing some renters in the ACT.
''The ACT housing market, while moderating somewhat, remains robust,'' he said.
''In general this is a good thing, however the government acknowledges it does pose a challenge for renters and buyers on lower incomes.''