Canberra’s rental crisis ‘worst’ of any city in the country

The price Canberra pays … very few homes are suitable for low-income earners. Photo: Andrew Sheargold

Canberra’s rental affordability crisis has been labelled the worst for any city in the country after a property snapshot found there was ”virtually no affordable housing” available for low-income earners in the ACT.

Fewer than 140 listed properties suitable for a variety of low-income earners were recorded for the Canberra and Queanbeyan area in Anglicare Australia’s annual Rental Affordability Snapshot, issued today.

The snapshot involved an audit of newspapers and real estate websites for private rental accommodation, undertaken by Anglicare Australia network members, who surveyed more than 65,000 properties across the country on April 14.

Housing snapshot reveals a rental crisis in Canberra.

In Canberra, no available and appropriate properties were recorded for renters in eight of the 12 categories of low-income earners.

Anglicare ACT general manager Jenny Kitchen said the capital’s rental affordability crisis was ”off the chart”, forcing some people to choose between accommodation and regular meals.

”There is no other major urban centre in Australia that is unable to supply any affordable housing for families on a minimum-wage income,” she said.

The closest available properties listed for single parents on the minimum wage were more than an hour’s drive away – in Harden, Marulan and Goulburn. Since the snapshot was taken, two of the properties had been taken off the market.

Throughout the capital and Queanbeyan, there were no available properties suitable for a single people on NewStart, Youth Allowance and Austudy; couples on the aged pension; couples on NewStart with two children; or single parents receiving parenting payments.

Furthermore, every property found was a single room in shared accommodation, with the exception of 20 properties available to families with two minimum-wage incomes.

Ms Kitchen said share houses were not suitable for all singles seeking accommodation, including the growing number of elderly people.

”There are a number of old people who have been housed in public housing, but not all of them have been eligible,” she said.

”They fall between the cracks.”

With 40 per cent of the Canberra workforce employed by the public sector, Ms Kitchen said the community was, on average, able to afford high rents. She said people used to be able to find affordable accommodation across the border in Queanbeyan, but it too had rental prices quickly approaching the unaffordability of Canberra housing.

”Quite often as a result, people start to crowd together,” she said.

”You can have 11 people trying to bunk down in one house. It’s certainly not ideal.”

ACT Shelter executive officer Leigh Watson said the high rates of private rents also pushed some people on public housing waiting lists into dire financial situations.

”Housing costs have increased 63 per cent in Canberra over the last six years and the ACT now has the highest private rental market of all states and territories,” she said. ”So for these people on the waiting list, paying private rent in such a market – and having enough left over for basic necessities – is impossible.”

Anglicare Australia’s snapshot said the ongoing lack of affordable housing was threatening to splinter Australia’s good economic standing.

”The National Housing Supply Council has projected a shortfall in physical dwellings currently of 186,000, but this is to blow out to 640,000 by 2030,” it stated.

Anglicare Australia is calling for changes to taxation and superannuation rules to encourage more investment in affordable housing at a national level. ”Too much of the focus is on affordability for owner-occupiers,” she said. ”The really desperate problem is for low-income earners in the private rental market … There is an onus on the ACT government to continue to provide incentives to developers to help create a mix of housing stock right across Canberra.”

Ms Kitchen said the review of ACT taxation should be used to consider how to generate more funds to support accessible housing options.

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