OPINION

The latest depressing insight into Australia's housing crisis

We surveyed 69,000 rental listings from across the country and found that only 6 per cent were affordable for someone earning the minimum wage. The situation is worst in the cities.

Here in Canberra, a couple with two children earning the minimum wage would find that not a single rental listing is affordable.

A survey of rental listings from across the country found only 6 per cent were affordable for someone earning the minimum wage.

A survey of rental listings from across the country found only 6 per cent were affordable for someone earning the minimum wage.

It's no wonder that record numbers of people who work full-time are in rental stress.

But they are not the worst off. For people on income support, rental stress is not so much a crisis as a way of life.

There is not one affordable rental listing for a person on Newstart or Youth Allowance in any major city or major regional centre.

Each year we find that the news gets worse. Even now, in the midst of a so-called market downturn, these findings are the worst we've seen.

This helps explain why housing has been a top-tier issue among voters for years - although it can't explain why it has been absent from the political debate for so long.

Polling released by the Everybody's Home campaign shows how fearful Australians have become about the housing crisis.

More than half feel too stretched to meet their current housing commitments. And a staggering 42 per cent are worried about becoming homeless themselves if their circumstances change.

Think about that for a moment. While we spend billions subsidising investors, 42 per cent of Australians fear becoming homeless.

We should be especially concerned about the situation facing older people. Retirees need stable housing more than ever.

Yet record numbers of older people, especially women, are becoming homeless. And our Snapshot shows that renting as an older person is only getting worse - this year we found that pensioners can afford less than 1 per cent of rentals. In Canberra, that's just 16 rentals out of almost 1300 listings.

What this tells us is that no one is shielded from Australia's overheated housing market.

But if we believe the government, this crisis is unavoidable. And, we're told, interfering in the market now will somehow make things worse.

But here's the problem with that argument. Over the past three decades the federal government has moved away from building low-cost rentals. Social housing, which serves those on the lowest incomes, has also been in decline since the nineties.

That's why we have a shortfall of 300,000 social and public rentals across Australia.

And in that time, rents have skyrocketed. This is not a coincidence.

As government has abandoned social housing, more and more people have been languishing on waiting lists. And hundreds of thousands of renters have been left to compete for rentals in the private market.

That has been pushing rent prices up, as we at Anglicare Australia have seen from a decade of depressing Snapshots. Some have been pushed onto couches, into sheds, or to crisis accommodation. Others are sleeping rough.

The solution is obvious to most Australians, even if the political class has been slow to catch up. They want much more intervention from government.

The opposition has announced a plan for affordable rentals, which is a great start. But neither the government nor the opposition has yet committed to tackling the social housing shortfall.

The Everybody's Home polling tells us that this is what Australians want - a massive 75 per cent of Australians support more social housing.

That level of support tells us something. Most Australians know that a fair society is one that responds to need.

And they can see that the shortage of affordable housing has been leaving people behind for years, excluding them from the opportunities our political leaders like to talk about.

The two key slogans for this federal election are "you get a go if you have a go" and "a fair go for all".

But if there's nowhere safe where you can afford to live you can't have a go at anything except getting from one day to the next. And that's not fair at all.

  • Kasy Chambers is the executive director of Anglicare Australia.