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Poor priced out of Canberra rental market, says Anglicare

Research to be published by Anglicare shows the ACT struggles to provide low income housing.

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.''


  • So much for the Lucky Country. Nice to to Labor support their base

    Date and time
    April 29, 2013, 10:32AM
    • with government housing being ridiculously unavailable or in areas that are downright awful and dangerous, most welfare-reliant people/families have to seek private rentals. With the competition of those who work (and many with much better paying jobs), I don't know how it is even feasible on any level for a welfare recipient to afford to live. Not only that, there are those on very low incomes (who work) that simply cannot afford to rent - even rent a room in many cases.
      I used to be a single parent on welfare who rented in Canberra and it was so hard to get a landlord/rental agency to even consider me for a property - I was just lucky that someone did take a chance on me but in order to keep the property I did have to go without - without food, phone and power (at times). It was an impossible situation that thankfully I am now out of.
      There needs to be a higher level of rental assistance provided. Not only that, those who own their homes, pay the mortgage and who find themselves on welfare are not eligible for any sort of assistance aside from the basic welfare payment - no rental/mortgage assistance for them. This needs to be reviewed and the policy changed as a matter of urgency.

      Date and time
      April 29, 2013, 11:18AM
      • Ohh please, Havent people heard of getting second and third jobs.

        Boo Hoo.

        Date and time
        April 29, 2013, 11:54AM
        • Muzza, with a second job what should you do tax wise? Is there some threshold thing that needs to be worried about? So if I am full time and do want a second job, will I be taxed massively?

          One job, want another
          Date and time
          April 30, 2013, 10:04AM
      • It really bothers me when these reports are released. They usually have the connotation that someone should do something for the affected people (give them more rent assistance, bigger benefits etc). Why can't people affected do something to help themselves instead of expecting the rest of us to support them? Move somewhere where it is cheaper to live would be a good start. I can't afford to live in the eastern suburbs of Sydney so I don't. When I was educating myself I lived in share accommodation. Nothing wrong with that. Second, getting a job would help. There are not many people who can't stack shelves at Wollies. Help yourself.

        Date and time
        April 29, 2013, 12:35PM
        • As a single parent, I found it extremetly difficult with paying rent and the like. However I went to university with the support of Centrelink and a small scholarship from Smith family. I purchased a run down house in Queanbeyan, finished paying my HECS last year and now doing moderatley well. Education ensured my success rate to gain a higher paying work position and was the key to my success. I urge others to look at the big picture and help yourself as well as seeking assistance.

          Date and time
          April 29, 2013, 12:49PM
          • ... and do tell where is the extra $$ will come from to provide the extra assistance - please stay way from my pockets (via taxes and rates),

            Date and time
            April 29, 2013, 1:12PM
            • In situations where there is a shared care arrangement in place for children it may prevent people from moving away from Canberra to find cheaper rentals. Moving is not always an option.

              Date and time
              April 30, 2013, 2:12PM
              • the side of this story people haven;t focussed on yet is the assertion by the article that Canberra rents are high. They definitely are high, even compared to the major capitals like Melbourne and Sydney, and people assume greedy landlords are the reason. But being a landlord myself I know that a very big reason for Canberra rents being high are the large land tax and rate bills I receive every quarter. I have a house rented out in Downer for $480 per week which equates to $25000 per year. Last year I paid $7000 in (mainly) land tax and also rates to the ACT government and this figure is rising every year and way more than paid in other juristictions like Sydney( insurance costs, water and sewage charges, estate agent fees, etc etc are additional). This means I could rent the house out for $345 per week and still be in the same position if I didn't have to pay the land tax and rates. I'm sure this would be allow rentals in Canberra to be more affordable to many more families. The irony is that I suppose the ACT govenment takes this money and uses it to provide public housing for them.

                The other reason this heavy taxing of rental properties causes high rents is that not everyone is a mug like me. The sane people simply assess investment in a rental property as a bad proposition and sell it, leaving less properties for rent. Supply and demand forces then mean that rents are driven up.

                Date and time
                May 01, 2013, 12:48PM
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