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SA housing 'unaffordable' for low-income renters

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UPDATED: South Australia’s housing crisis has continued to “deepen and broaden” with a report finding job seekers were unable to afford any rental properties across the state in March.

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AnglicareSA’s annual Rental Affordability Snapshot found that of 1788 properties private rentals advertised on realestate.com.au in South Australia on March 26, none were affordable and appropriate for single people reliant on the federal government’s JobSeeker payment as their main source of income.

Across single South Australians on the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment, only 17 properties were affordable and appropriate.

The stark outlook for low-income renters was a further decline from the one per cent or 31 SA properties available for people on the JobSeeker payment in March 2020.

The rental market was only marginally better for families with two adults on the JobSeeker payment, with four per cent of properties considered affordable and appropriate.

The organisation defined an “affordable property” as one where rent did not exceed 30 per cent of a household budget, a benchmark that is commonly used as an indicator of housing stress. Suitable properties were defined as appropriate for the number of people at the dwelling.

It follows what AnglicareSA labelled a “brief reprieve” for people on low-income payments during the coronavirus pandemic, when the COVID-19 supplement boosted the number of properties affordable to South Australians on welfare.

In response to widespread industry shutdowns last March, aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, the federal government outlined a suit of social security measures to keep the economy afloat.

Among the measures a fortnightly $550 coronavirus supplement for welfare recipients was announced.

Over the past 12 months the supplement has been wound back, despite opposition from business organisations, local councils and social justice groups, and a permanent increase of $25 a week introduced in its place.

AnglicareSA Executive General Manager of Housing Michelle Gegenhuber said 25 per cent of properties were affordable on the increased rate of JobSeeker payment.

“With the supplement now gone, and only a minor permanent increase to the JobSeeker payment, the crisis we’ve seen for years in Adelaide has returned and it is even more dire than before COVID,” she said.

“The results of this snapshot indicate that in March 2021 there were half the number of affordable and appropriate private rentals than advertised in March 2020.

“The unfortunate reality is that if you rely on income support, or you earn the minimum wage, and you want access to the private rental market, then there is very little hope.”

Gegenhuber said while the annual Rental Affordability Snapshot showed a “significant proportion” of the community did not have access to safe and secure housing those living in regional areas faced additional pressures.

“They are further away from services and the cost of living can be more expensive because of the travel to get to services, shops and schools, so they have a number of increased pressures and a lack of services and supports in those areas,” she said.

“This increases pressure across the board in terms of our community for the services that are provided.

“Demand for homelessness services, demand for emergency assistance, demand for mental health supports … are very challenging to address and particularly when there is no access to housing for people who seek support from those services.

“The first step is to collaborate with them on finding access to a suitable home and there’s just no access to those homes at the moment.”

Earlier this year InDaily reported of warnings that regional South Australia was on the brink of an “unprecedented” homelessness crisis as rental costs and property prices pushed financially vulnerable groups out of the housing market.

Gegenhuber said a “co-ordinated, systemic and holistic approach” to the state’s housing crisis was vital to tackling the issue, with the organisation urging the Marshall and Morrison governments to increase funding for the sector in the upcoming budgets.

“Alongside a greater permanent increase to income support payments, we desperately need to build more social and affordable housing to ensure families aren’t left without a roof over their heads,” she said.

“In a country like Australia, it is simply not good enough that we accept and do not address a systemic market failure that excludes so many in our community from safe and secure housing.”

A state government spokesperson said the Marshall government was preparing to undertake “bold, much-needed and long-overdue reform” to prevent people cycling in and out of homelessness.

She said the government had committed $400 million to deliver 1000 new affordable homes in South Australia by 2025 and assisted South Australians in the private rental market through its financial support initiative the Private Rental Assistance Program.

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