If Cal Ashton was forced out of affordable housing and into Canberra's private rental market, he would likely end up on friends' couches - or in lesser circumstances, homeless.
The university student has struggled with severe mental and physical health issues for all of his life. A dangerous case of eczema, along with having to support ill interstate family, has seen him out of work for more than a year.
"I used to wash dishes but then I developed eczema [because of the job]. It got to the point where the only way I could really manage it was by taking immunosuppressants," Mr Ashton said.
"How do you get back into the job market after you've had to take a break for personal reasons? It's tricky deciding whether you say, 'Look, I had to take time off because of this', or just leave a gap in your resume."
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows 10.9 per cent of Canberrans between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed.
Mr Ashton, who moved from Victoria to Canberra in 2017 at the age of 23, says he is not in an "unmanageable" position while in good health and starting to look for work again.
Canberra is Australia's most expensive capital city to rent a detached house and the second most costly to rent an apartment.
"We've heard of [young] people spending up to 60 or more per cent of their income on rent," ACT Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar said.
"That means that there actually isn't enough left for other expenses like food, transport, and keeping your [online] data up to date so you can apply for jobs, comply with your Centrelink requirements and study obligations."
The ACT's youth unemployment rate, which was among the lowest of Australia's states and territories, didn't account for underemployment, which was a big factor in financial stress, Ms Helyar said.
A 2016 survey by the territory's Youth Coalition found 21 per cent of young respondents had been looking for work, despite the youth unemployment rate at the time being nearly half that.
Nearly 20 per cent of 18 to 25-year-olds had been earning between $150 and $200 a week but 56 per cent of this age group had to pay that amount on either rent, board or a mortgage.
As Canberra was a "university town", the labour market was extremely competitive, and employers would generally offer low, casual hours, Ms Helyar said.
"There's 30,000 people who are well-educated, articulate, and looking for work to support their studies. Other young people can really struggle to compete in that market if they're not highly educated with lots of skills," she said.
"It doesn't actually matter how low the [unemployment rate] is. If you're one of the people in that percentage, your life is very difficult."
Government payments - namely, the Youth Allowance and the Newstart Allowance - should be increased by $75 a week to protect young people, Ms Helyar and the executive officer of ACT Shelter Travis Gilbert said.
Newstart was about $277.85 a week, or $40 a day for a single person over the age of 22. Mr Ashton was receiving the Youth Allowance, which worked out to be about $227.60 a week or $32.50 a day, as well as $90 a fortnight in Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
A recent report by the Productivity Commission shows about 86 per cent of young people receiving rent assistance had still been spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent, which was the benchmark for "rental stress".
"Those amounts just don't stack up for me ... I think [not increasing the rates has] become quite punitive and cruel," Mr Gilbert said.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Safety Rachel Stephen-Smith said increasing income support payments like Newstart by $75 a week was "long overdue".
The ACT government was continuing to develop policies and initiatives to help young people find work and its ongoing investment in education and training was crucial.
"This kind of support is vital for many of our young people, especially those who don't have a strong family support system in place," Ms Stephen-Smith said.