REPORT: 1.6 million Australians struggled to pay rent in 2014

Single people on government payments can afford less than 1% of the properties available.

New research by Anglicare Australia has found 1.6 million Australians struggled to pay the rent last year.

Using 30% of the household’s income as a benchmark to determine housing affordability and applying it to more than 65,000 properties, Anglicare found that single people on government payments can afford less than 1% of the properties available.

A couple on minimum wage with two children can afford just 23.8% of properties available.

Additionally, Anglicare estimates more than 12% of all Australia households are in housing stress, with an additional 6% under severe housing stress.

So how do these Australians manage?

According to Anglicare, people unable to afford rent are living in overcrowded houses, couch surfing, living in cars or in shelters.

In response to the findings the charitable organisation is calling on the government to recognise income inadequacy as a barrier to secure housing and meaningful social participation, and increase payments accordingly.

Anglicare also wants a tax system that makes affordable housing more available and more social housing stock to match the changing population.

They’re not the only ones rallying behind systematic change.

With affordable housing supply at critically low levels young people and those on low incomes are locked out of home ownership and the private rental market. The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) is calling for the issue to be addressed in the upcoming federal budget.

“While the proportion of investors has increased significantly, the proportion of first home buyers in the market has reached historically low levels. Meanwhile, 80% of those in the bottom 20% of incomes are experiencing housing stress in the private rental market,” says the ACOSS chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“In the last Budget, the Federal Government walked away from the only program we had for increasing private investment in affordable rental housing, the National Rental Affordability Scheme. This will save taxpayers $235 million over the forward estimates but cost us at least 12,000 affordable housing dwellings for low and moderate income households not to mention the untold social and economic costs of inadequate affordable housing supply.

“This Budget must chart a new course and deliver a down-payment on future housing investment. It should also deliver necessary relief to those struggling on low incomes in the private rental market though an increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance,” Goldie said.

Earlier in the month federal Treasurer Joe Hockey announced a new taskforce, to be led by Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas, assigned to tackle housing affordability.

“We had a further discussion on housing in Australia and we are particularly alarmed at the inability of young people to be able to access the housing market in a way they previously have been,” Hockey said after meeting with state treasurers in Canberra.

The plan of attack of the new taskforce has not been revealed, but it has been reported that its main objective will be to increase the supply of housing stock.

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