Hospitality workers, single parents and pensioners are among those most impacted by the ACT's exorbitant rents, a new report has found.
The latest rental affordability index by housing advocacy group National Shelter revealed households in the territory with incomes below $85,000 currently face 'unaffordable' to 'severely unaffordable' rents.
The report found a single, part-time working parent earning $42,143 would spend 63 per cent of their pay on rent in the ACT, while a hospitality worker earning $59,300 per year would pay 40 per cent of their wage in rent.
Full-time hospitality workers Hatairat Chanakham, 28, and Elise Crerar, 22, have both experienced the challenges of renting in Canberra, which is the most expensive capital city to rent in.
Ms Crerar first moved out of home when she was 19 and rented in a Braddon share house for about 12 months.
"I was working as a casual worker at that time and I had to ask my employer to give me a certain amount of shifts every week, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to afford it," she said.
After moving home for a while, Ms Crerar is now looking to get back into the rental market but said the cost of rent has risen noticeably in the last few years.
"I've found it hard. At the moment there is quite a few new places coming up every day but they go so fast. They'll be at the top of my budget but tick the least of my criteria," she said.
On average, Canberrans spend $633 per week on rent, according to property data firm CoreLogic.
Weekly rent in Canberra rose 9.6 per cent in the 12 months to September and is well above the national median price of $485 per week.
National Shelter's index, released annually with SGS Economics and Planning, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Beyond Bank Australia, scores each state and territory based on the cost of rent relative to household incomes.
A score of 100 and below shows that low-income households are suffering rental stress, while a score of 100-150 shows low-income households are facing unaffordable rents.
This year's index gave ACT a score of 119.
After relocating from Sydney, Ms Chanakham was forced to stay in a Canberra hotel while she looked for a rental property.
"I was looking for a rental but it's so expensive out here, so I lived in a hotel for four months," she said.
Ms Chanakham is now renting in Kingston with her partner and said she wouldn't be able to afford to rent by herself.
The report showed a single pensioner with an annual income of $33,111 is estimated to spend 68 per cent on rent in the capital.
Meanwhile, a single person on the Jobseeker payment would pay 113 per cent of their wage on a rental home in the ACT, pricing many out of the market entirely.
The Canberra suburbs becoming less affordable
While overall rental affordability in the ACT has remained largely unchanged throughout the COVID-19 pandemic period, the report found a number of areas where affordability has deteriorated further.
Gungahlin, Belconnen, Molonglo Valley, Weston Creek and Tuggeranong each shifted from 'acceptable' to 'moderately unaffordable' during the pandemic.
On the back of its rental affordability index, National Shelter is considering calling for rent control to address unaffordable rental prices for low-income households.
National Shelter executive officer Adrian Pisarski said the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on renters.
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"The implementation of rental control may be needed in Australia or at the least the Commonwealth rent assistance needs to rise by 50 per cent to allow households receiving it to retain a level of affordability," he said.
"In jurisdictions like the ACT, high incomes are masking a terrible situation for low income households, by pushing average affordability higher while it remains shockingly unaffordable for people on low incomes.
"Australia needs a national housing plan, much more social and affordable housing, better tenancy laws, reforms of tax settings, new planning measures and the removal of incentives distorting our housing system."
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