Canberra's wealth is hiding a housing crisis, with the ACT having the second-highest homelessness rate in the country, second only to the Northern Territory, according to a new report.
Rents have way outstripped inflation, rising 66 per cent higher than the consumer price index over 15 years and putting a growing number of people in housing stress.
The figures come from an ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) and ACT Shelter analysis of housing costs to be released on Monday.
It finds almost 1000 Canberra households are in housing stress,
ACT Shelter chief executive Travis Gilbert said the city's high incomes not only masked the extent of housing stress, but exacerbated it, with high incomes pushing up the cost of housing.
Canberra households spend an average $328 a week on housing, $63 a week higher than the national average, and the highest in the country other than the Northern Territory, where housing costs an average $347. Given Canberra has the highest incomes in the country, the cost is not a problem for most, but Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar said it was very tough for people at the lower end.
For renters, the analysis shows an average weekly rent of $412 for a one-bedroom apartment in Canberra's centre, or $292 further out. For a three-bedroom apartment in the city centre, the average rent is $708, and outside, $462.
Even at the lowest end, a one-bedroom apartment outside the city costs $228 and a three-bedroom, $365. A sole parent with two children on Newstart gets a payment of $617, so at the lowest end of Canberra rents, would have to spend 59 per cent of their income on a three-bedroom apartment.
An age pensioner, receiving $491 a week, would have to spend 46 per cent on renting a one-bedroom apartment on the outskirts.
Even people in work are under housing stress – a family with one full-timer and one-part-timer on the minimum wage with three teenage chIldren could spend 34 per cent of their income on an apartment, according to the report.
Ms Helyar said the cost of housing left people in a state of constant stress, unable to afford other necessities and vulnerable to crisis. Women trying to escape domestic violence, young people and Indigenous people were among the most vulnerable.
"For all of them, these prices bear no resemblance to the income they have access to," she said.
The extent to which rent rises had outstripped other costs was shocking, she said, with rents rising 89 per cent in 15 years while the consumer price index had risen 54 per cent. Rent had also outstripped house prices, which had risen 75 per cent in the same period.
The report says 1785 Canberrans are homeless – at 50 per 10,000 people, the second-highest rate in the country. The rate is up from 30 per 10,000 people in 2006. The national average is 49.
Penny Leemhuis, who is on the board of ACT Shelter and the Tenants Union said, said she had given up looking for a house since returning from Ballarat five years ago. Unable to work after an accident, she receives a pension of about $500 a week, putting Canberra rentals out of her reach. Instead, she stays with a friend, who is also renting, and has been on the public housing list for five years.
Ms Leemhuis said she could afford about $200 a week if she sold her car. Her situation was far from unique, and women were especially vulnerable, forced to stay in abusive and unsatisfactory relationships because they had nowhere to go, she said.
"When politicians say Canberra is a great place to live, who is it a great city to live for? It only works if you have a mid to high income," she said.
Mr Gilbert, who wants to see tax incentives for superannuation funds and other investors to build affordable housing, said the problem was not confined to people on benefits, with people in work forced to ask charities for food and clothing vouchers and help paying bills.