More Canberrans have been plunged into poverty following the end of higher Commonwealth welfare payments, with the the number of people living below the poverty line higher now than it was before the onset of the economically damaging coronavirus pandemic.
There are now about 38,300 people living in poverty in the ACT, including roughly 9300 children.
A new report from the ACT Council of Social Service found steep increases in the cost of essential goods and services, coupled with unaffordable housing costs, had left a significant impact on the territory's low-income households.
The council's chief executive, Dr Emma Campbell, said the JobKeeper payments and coronavirus supplement had reduced ACT poverty rate, which rose again after the payments were cut.
"This highlights that as a society, through our elected representatives, we are making the choice to leave people in poverty. ACTCOSS continues to call on the Australian government to fix our social security safety net for good so that it keeps people out of poverty," Dr Campbell said.
The council's report said it was estimated 9 per cent of Canberrans were currently living in poverty, up from 8.6 per cent before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The rate fell to a low of 5.2 per cent in June 2020, when the federal government increased support payments.
Housing prices had also increased by 15.7 per cent in the last five years, the report said. The council's analysis of consumer price index data showed Canberra rent costs rose by 10.1 per cent in five years, while rent costs rose by 1 per cent nationally.
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Electricity and costs had increased by more than 25 per cent in five years, along with most fresh food increasing by 10 per cent in the same time.
Dr Campbell said the price increases had made living in Canberra less affordable for anyone living on a low wage or government support payment, while a lack of affordable housing compounded the problem.
"Without significant federal and territory government investment in social housing and better protections for renters, this crisis will continue to worsen, deepening and entrenching poverty, disadvantage and homelessness in our community," she said.
"Again, these are the choices our society makes."
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