Low-income earners facing "discrimination" and struggling to crack into the most expensive rental market in the country are being helped by a program keeping many off the public housing waitlist.
The social enterprise rental agency run by YWCA, Rentwell, bridges the gap for low-income Canberrans by charging them 75 per cent market rent.
But more property owners are needed to sign-up to the program, as the YWCA hopes to double the number of homes in the next six months.
YWCA chief executive Frances Crimmins said the service supported people who may otherwise end up on the public housing waitlist, where the average wait for standard housing was almost four years.
Ms Crimmins said it also removed the discrimination low-income earners faced in the property market.
"What we know in the private rental market is there is a lot of discrimination. You're asked to put your income, your job title," she said.
"If you're someone aged 49 you're not going to compete with a young couple on a full-time public service income if you're working in Myer part-time.
"You just don't get a look in."'
The median house rent in Canberra is $600 - and $500 for units - according to the latest Domain Rental Report.
It means the ACT is the most expensive place to rent in the nation. Units are $30 more than in Sydney and houses are $50 more a week.
There were currently 44 Rentwell properties, a number Ms Crimmins hoped to double by the end of the year.
For one tenant, who didn't want to be identified, the Rentwell program meant she could leave her marriage knowing she would have a safe and affordable place to go.
The 60-year-old has been living in a Rentwell property for four months, and said she felt "unbelievably lucky" to find a home that suited her, with space to care for her grandchild.
The woman, who has several chronic conditions, left paid work almost a decade ago and said if she had to rely on finding a rental in the expensive Canberra market, she couldn't have left her partner.
It was a decision she had been battling with for years before she was referred to the program.
She pays 75 per cent of market rate on the property, about $270 a week.
"Paying this rent for me in the long term isn't ideal. But I can manage it," she said.
"When I signed the lease, I was certainly hoping that I'd be out within 12 months, but given the way the property market has escalated in Canberra, I'm not sure that that's going to be possible," she said.
Ms Crimmins said while landlords won't "come out ahead" with the program, they might not lose as much as expected.
Landlords can have land tax waived and claim the forgone rent as a tax deductible charitable donation.
Serina Bird started leasing her property with Rentwell in January. She makes about $2000 less a year than a commercial agent but said she wanted "to do the right thing".
Property management fees were on par with commercial counterparts, Ms Bird said, and "the numbers stacked up" as a long-term proposition.
Peter and Chris Ellis welcomed a family into their Belconnen property two months ago. After privately renting for several years, they were excited to be part of the social enterprise.
"This is part of what we see as a social conscience effort on our behalf," he said.
"I can say to other investors it's likely to stand up very well against a commercial arrangement in the end."
YWCA pays rent to landlords, to lessen risk for landlords while avoiding putting a tenant who can't meet a payment in housing stress.
Ms Crimmins said no one had ever failed to pay rent.
"Because people have dignity, people don't intend to not pay rent," she said.
One Rentwell tenant who joined the program early was able to return to full-time work as a result, and was now able to buy a home for her young family.
"People want self determination and agency back," Ms Crimmins said.
"We think Rentwell gives that to our tenants."
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