Low income earners and single parents locked out of Canberra'™s rental market: Anglicare

Low income earners and single parents locked out of Canberra'™s rental market: Anglicare

Canberra's single parents and young people on low incomes would be unlikely to find affordable housing even if they moved across the border to Queanbeyan, a rental market report has revealed.

Anglicare's 7th annual Rental Affordability Snapshot surveyed 1329 rental properties advertised in Canberra and Queanbeyan on Friday, April 1 this year and found there were no affordable and suitable properties for anyone surviving on Newstart or youth allowance.

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers says all tiers of government need to address housing affordability.

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers says all tiers of government need to address housing affordability.

Even if they moved to Queanbeyan single people receiving Newstart, youth allowance, or parenting payments for one child would have been unable to find an affordable property including share houses.

In Canberra, households on income support payments could have afforded just 25 of the 1329 properties and those on minimum wage had 172 options.


Anglicare's executive director Kasy Chambers said after seven annual snapshots it was a "key year" for all levels of government to take notice of the "robust" data.

"The most worrying thing is it's not changing year to year. Vulnerable people in our community are continuing to not be able to secure affordable housing," she said.

"Our call has always been that housing is not simple issue; we do need to look at the tax policies that are said to be about housing but are clearly about wealth maximisation."

The outlook for some low income earners had improved marginally on previous years, with just one property available for couples with two children on Newstart or parenting payments when last year there wasn't one.

But affordable properties for singles and couples on the aged pension with no children had plummeted, with singles able to afford just 23 of the properties available in Queanbeyan or Canberra, down on 70 in the previous year, and couples able to afford just 20 down on 43 in 2015.

There were also fewer properties available for single people on the minimum wage (103 down on 160 the previous year) and 97 of the possibilities were share houses.

Last year's survey had found a lounge room in a share house was the only affordable property for a single person on Newstart, but this year there was nothing available.

Ms Chambers said negative gearing and capital gains tax were a "massive leaching on the public purse" taking about $6.8 billion out of the economy, but she was pleased the major parties had put it on the agenda.

"That's a massive welfare payment to someone at the richer end," she said.

"We've been talking about targeting negative gearing to people who offer social rents or longer rental periods for good tenants ... for new housing and housing in particular areas.

Ms Chambers said ideas from the treasury's housing affordability group could be trailed in Canberra such as accessing super funds and different funding models.

Beneath the territory's economy of new apartments with high rents there was a "shadow economy" of young people unable to get a start with the rate of affordable housing not increasing fast enough despite the efforts of the ACT government, she said.

A single mother living in Canberra, who declined to be named, was not surprised by the findings saying she wanted to finish her education and find a job but would be unable to do so without support from Anglicare.

She said housing has been her biggest stress since leaving home as a teenager.

"I preferred couch-surfing with friends than living in a refuge with other people and my little baby," she said.

"[Without support] I'd be working to try and pay rent, and probably getting in to debt to get loans to pay accommodation.

Ms Chambers said Anglicare supported calls for welfare benefits to be increased through an independent tribunal to avoid it becoming a political issue and the minimum wage was also inadequate.

"When it can only buy 7 per cent of private rental properties and that's sharing means it's not enough," she said.

"There's a selection of the population who think people on the dole have it easy to get around that public perception ... [it needs to be] removed from being a political discussion."

Clare Colley is Head of Audience Engagement at The Australian Financial Review. She was previously an online editor, arts editor and journalist at The Canberra Times.

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