This month Anglicare Australia held their annual rental affordability survey which further exposed the dire state of Australia’s housing system. The results from the Hunter were appalling and signal a serious problem in the region. For example, homelessness has increased 12 per cent – 1561 people were officially recorded as homeless for the Hunter in the last Census. More on that later, but first the solutions.
We need more social housing that guarantees affordability by only charging rent as a proportion of the household’s income, usually 25 per cent. Only a tiny amount of housing in NSW is run that way – about 5 per cent. In many progressive European countries, about a quarter of their housing is managed that way.
The federal government had a big opportunity in the budget to invest in more social housing that would have guaranteed affordability and security. The Greens have a costed plan to invest in 500,000 social homes across the country and we called on the government to meet that in this year’s budget to show they are serious about ensuring everyone has a home.
Frustratingly, despite housing affordability coming in at the number 2 issue Australians care most about, this budget provided nothing for housing. We have record levels of homelessness, yet there was no real increase in social housing funding and homelessness services in the 2018 budget. In fact there were no new measures to improve housing affordability or security.
Perhaps the Turnbull government is so far removed from the reality of working Australians that they believe they have solved the housing crisis. The Anglicare rental affordability survey proves they have not.
We will continue to look for solutions to the housing system, including strengthening rights for renters in the private market. ‘No-grounds’ evictions need to end to give renters more security. The amount and frequency of rent rises also need to be capped.
These solutions match the seriousness of the problem. The Anglicare survey looked at the rental properties available on one weekend across different regions and cities in Australia and compared their affordability and appropriateness for people on different incomes. The survey found that for people on income support payments, housing affordability in the Hunter has reached a critical level. These are Anglicare’s findings for the region:
- For a single person or family on Newstart or Youth Allowance there were no affordable properties available.
- For a person over 21 on disability support only one per cent of properties were affordable.
- And for a single person on the age pension only four per cent of properties were affordable.
For too long Australia’s housing system has focused on houses for profit instead of recognising that housing is a human right. Government expenditure on social housing has flat lined in the past few decades. Obsessed with the idea that the market would provide, successive governments believed they no longer needed to be in the business of providing adequate housing.
But it doesn’t have to be like this.
With only 7 per cent of rental properties being affordable to people on income support payments in the Hunter and only 6 per cent nationwide, it’s clear that we need to invest in a bigger social housing program and strengthen rights for renters.