Anglicare study finds rental affordability crisis in Canberra and Queanbeyan
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Anglicare study finds rental affordability crisis in Canberra and Queanbeyan

The downside of Canberra's booming property market is that rent has become unaffordable for low-income earners, pensioners and welfare recipients.

Anglicare's rental affordability snapshot reveals only 2.3 per cent of ACT and Queanbeyan rental properties are within reach of minimum-wage families compared with 4 per cent in Sydney and 40 per cent in other capitals.

Anglicare ACT chief executive Jeremy Halcrow, who says poker machine reform is a matter of public health and safety.

Anglicare ACT chief executive Jeremy Halcrow, who says poker machine reform is a matter of public health and safety.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

Anglicare ACT chief executive Jeremy Halcrow said the situation for many people was critical.

"With housing affordability for low-income families catastrophically dire, it clearly shows that the ACT Government is not delivering affordable housing options for families," he said.

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"There needs to be more investment in social housing in Canberra.

"Improving rental affordability is a complex issue and needs to be tackled across many areas.

"This includes improving security for renters, addressing the low level of welfare payments for low-income families, winding back negative gearing and capital gains tax exemptions, and redirecting funds saved into community and public housing."

The snapshot surveyed 1280 properties advertised for rent in the Canberra region on April 1-2.

The survey found there was no affordable and suitable property for anyone on Newstart or Youth Allowance. For a single parent with one or more children, not one flat or townhouse was affordable and appropriate.

The report says the 24 properties that were affordable to single aged pensioners comprised a granny flat, an apartment in Queanbeyan and rooms in shared houses.

"In many cases this would not be appropriate for an older person, and similarly would not be an arrangement of choice for the other housemates," the report says.

"This reinforces the increasing community awareness of homelessness affecting single older women."

Last Thursday's Domain state of the market report showed Canberra provides investors with the highest gross yields for apartments at 5.7 per cent.

Domain found that Canberra also recorded the biggest jump in median asking rent among the capital cities, with house prices rising 7.5 per cent to $500 a week and unit prices rising 8.2 per cent to $428 a week over 12 months.

The Anglicare snapshot reveals a lack of competition in the market for any affordable housing option.

"Rental applicants may find themselves up against many others for a property or a room in a house," the report says.

"This means that a landlord can select from a large group of applicants and people with lower incomes, disabilities or other characteristics are often overlooked.

"Unfortunately this can mask other forms of discrimination too, including racism, homophobia and ageism."

ACT Housing Minister Yvette Berry said she had consistently advocated for national housing reform.

Ms Berry said the ACT had the highest proportion of social housing in Australia, providing 30 dwellings for every 1000 people compared to the national average of 17.

"The ACT Government has worked hard to address housing affordability through successive housing affordability action plans," she said.

"Much has been achieved, such as an accelerated land release program which has seen a near doubling of the number of dwelling sites released over the five years to 2013-14 with 19,475 sites released, compared to only 11,179 dwelling sites in the preceding five years.

"The phasing out of stamp duty is also making Canberra homes – particularly at the lower end of the market – more affordable."

The Anglicare report says recent housing developments in Canberra and Queanbeyan have not adequately addressed demand at the lower end of the market.

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ACT Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar said the federal government should reform capital gains tax and negative gearing in the budget and lift welfare benefits.

"We have a crisis ... due to unaffordable rental prices," she said.

Michael Gorey is a reporter at The Canberra Times

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