Two new reports from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and Anglicare focus on the crisis in affordable housing.

According to the latest Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot rental housing affordability has reached crisis levels, revealing that there are almost no affordable private rental properties for those on low incomes – even in regional areas.

Using a snapshot of the weekend of 1-2 April 2017, Anglicare found only 0.3 per cent of properties for lease nationwide were affordable for single parent families on Newstart (affordable means less than 30 per cent of income is spent on rent), while 1.5 per cent were affordable for a single parent on a parenting payment.

For those living on the Disability Support Pension, just 0.9 per cent of properties Australia-wide were affordable.

“For eight years now, Anglicare Australia’s Rental Affordability Snapshot has highlighted the experiences of people on the lowest incomes in the rental market,” Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said.

“What we’ve learned is that it’s getting tougher for renters to make a real home for themselves and their families.”

None of the dwelling were located in Sydney, Brisbane or Darwin; there were only two in Canberra and Hobart, four in Adelaide and five in Melbourne and Perth.

Ms Chambers said many Australians believed that major cities were becoming places where only the very wealthy could avoid housing stress (paying more than 30 per cent of income on rent for those in the bottom 40 per cent of income earners).

“But this report shows that renters on low incomes are in trouble all over Australia, with regional areas failing to offer relief.”

She said government payments had become “a poverty trap”.

“They’re so low that paying rent means you can’t then afford to buy food, clothing, transport or go to the doctor.”

Anglicare’s key recommendations to government include:

  • Adopting a “housing first” approach to ending homelessness – a homeless assistance approach that priorities providing people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing as quickly as possible
  • Increasing funding for public housing and community housing by rebooting the National Affordable Housing Agreement, and radically increasing transparency so its goals can be tracked and are delivered
  • Creating a National Affordable Housing Finance Corporation, modelled on the successful UK entity, to leverage government guarantees and bond aggregation for more investment in community and affordable housing
  • Winding back negative gearing and capital gains tax exemptions, and redirecting funds saved into public and community housing

“The government has acknowledged there is a crisis in rental affordability,” Ms Chambers said. “The next budget is its chance to show us whether it includes all Australians when it talks about Australian values.”

AHURI says there’s capacity to grow affordable rental housing sector

An increase in community and affordable housing could be realised, if governments work to support the sector, new research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute has found.

Its research has highlighted capacity in the affordable housing sector, and the opportunities and barriers to delivering larger volumes of this subsidised form of rental housing.

Developing the scale and capacity of Australia’s affordable housing industry highlights the role of affordable housing providers as players within a wider system that extends beyond the provider organisations to include supporting entities and institutions such as service delivery partners, lenders, peak bodies and government policymakers, program managers and regulators.

The major barriers identified by the researchers include:

  • The lack of a resourced plan for tackling the national affordable housing shortage
  • a major loss of housing policymaker expertise over the past 10-20 years and, over the past five years, a neglected and underperforming affordable housing regulatory system
  • stronger and more enduring leadership is needed from both governments and housing providers
  • support for the Indigenous housing sector has lagged behind that for mainstream providers

Key recommendations include revitalisation of the affordable housing regulatory system; official recognition of affordable housing as a long-term national policy goal through COAG, and the creation of a joint government-industry Affordable Housing Industry Council to direct and oversee industry development.

AHURI is also calling for the appointment of a minister for affordable housing.

“We believe there is a case for national legislation that defines affordable housing and sets out the economic and social purpose of the industry,’ inquiry leader UNSW Professor Hal Pawson said.

“Australia’s leading affordable housing providers are, in our judgement, ready for further growth. With the right leadership, resourcing and regulatory accountability, they have what it takes to help this country tackle what has become a key problem governments can no longer ignore.”

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