Rental affordability has become a critical issue nationally amid a shortage of available rental properties and slowing home building across the country.
New PropTrack figures revealed that the number of affordable rental homes had fallen to five-year lows nationwide in June except for Hobart, ACT and regional Northern Territory.
Affordable rental homes were measured as rental properties listed on realestate.com.au that were less than or equal to 30% of the minimum wage.
A household is considered to be in housing stress if housing costs such as rent are more than 30% of gross income.
Affordable rental homes in greater Sydney and Melbourne fell to just 0.2% in June, down from 0.4% and 0.8% year-on-year, respectively.
Affordable rental homes in all of the other capital cities were also below 1%.
Homelessness “only getting worse”
The theme for Homelessness Week 2023, which runs from 7-13 August, is ‘it’s time to end homelessness’.
However, Launch Housing CEO Bevan Warner said homelessness was only getting worse in Australia.
“The recent census confirmed that it’s getting worse in almost every age category,” Mr Warner said.
“In Victoria, two thirds of people approaching specialist homelessness services last year were coming back for a second or third or fourth time, so clearly we’re not ending homelessness.”
Launch Housing is a Melbourne-based community organisation that delivers homelessness services and housing support to disadvantaged Victorians.
Mr Warner said people from all walks of life were experiencing homelessness, including young people and older women who were experiencing homelessness for the first time.
Gig workers in casualised employment were increasingly experiencing homelessness as well.
“We’re seeing the growth of the working homeless,” he said.
“We’re seeing that casualised employment and underemployment is a big contributor to people not being able to make ends meet.”
Owen Wilson, chief executive officer of REA Group – publisher of realestate.com.au – said there were a combination of factors fueling the rental crisis, particularly the lack of new housing supply.
“We’re not building enough housing in this country to keep up with population growth,” Mr Wilson said.
“That lack of supply then pushes up rents through supply and demand, and so we’re seeing rent inflation way above wage inflation. As long as that continues, we’re going to see the availability of affordable housing fall further.”
Mr Wilson said traffic on Flatmates.com.au had also grown significantly over the past 18 months.
“It shows that people can’t afford to rent on their own and they’re having to form share accommodation and they’re not doing it by choice,” he said.
“They’re doing it out of economic necessity and that’s another signal that there’s a problem here, we need to construct more housing.”
How to address homelessness
To address homelessness in Australia, Mr Warner said we needed more social housing that people could afford to rent, and to decrease low-income rental stress for people.
“We urgently need more social housing,” he said.
“Fifty years ago, 13.1% of all dwellings built were built by the government and offered at below-market rates. Last year, it was 1.1%.
“We see other countries around the world investing in subsidised housing as a part of what governments do, just like they underwrite a universal healthcare scheme.”
He said all three levels of government – local, state and federal – needed to act together, as well as policy support from all sides of politics.
“At the end of the day, all housing is local… but support for more subsidised or public housing that people can afford to rent needs a subsidy and somebody needs to pay,” he said.
“The Commonwealth [government] has the deepest pockets and the states often have the implementation responsibilities, but local governments need to make sure that we get the affordable housing built in communities that need it.”
Homeowners and renters can also take action by backing Launch Housing’s Melbourne Zero campaign and joining the YIMBY (yes in my backyard) movement.
The YIMBY movement supports increased higher-density housing and more affordable homes across all neighbourhoods, not just in city centres.
Mr Warner said YIMBY supporters can have an impact by voicing their support for higher-density housing to their local councillors and enquiring about their local government’s housing and planning policies.
“Governments of all persuasions do respond to voter sentiment, and unless we can unlock the community to put their hand up and say ‘yes, we want more in my backyard’, then we’ll get more of the same policies,” he said.
REA Group has partnered with Launch Housing through the National Rapid Rehousing Fund since 2014.
Sourced from realestate.com