Rental snapshot shows grim news for low income earners

SINGLE parents on Newstart allowance in regional areas have just 10 rental properties out of 14,000 examined around the country that they could afford to rent, a new report has shown.

The third annual Anglicare rental affordability snapshot has confirmed a widespread failure of the private rental market to service the needs of regional Australians on the lowest incomes.

Comparing rents in regional areas to 10 government payments and the minimum wage, the report showed just 7.3% of all 14,000 regional rental properties on the market last week were affordable for those on minimum wage.

The results for single parents were even worse; revealing those on parenting payments in regional areas had to compete for just 3.7% of all advertised properties, while those on Newstart could afford just 0.6% of the properties available.

While the picture was better for couples on the minimum wage, Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said those outside the big cities were suffering under higher costs for transport, groceries and other essential goods, exacerbating the problem.

Ms Chambers said the chronic shortage of affordable housing in regional areas had become a catch-22 for the nation's poorest.

She said the areas that had affordable rents for low-income earners had little to no work available, while housing in regions with jobs available was simply unaffordable for those on payments or the minimum wage.

"Even if those we found could be affordable or appropriate for those on low incomes, it doesn't mean they can rent them," she said.

"There's going to be competition for every property, and we've found anecdotally that agents discriminate against young people with no references, older pensioners or indigenous Australians."

For those on welfare or the minimum wage who could access private rented homes, many were going without meals or vital medications to pay the rent, she said.

The report showed of some 65,600 rental properties across regional areas and capital cities, just 1% or 618 properties were affordable for a couple on Newstart with two children.

Ms Chambers said one of the key problems was that negative gearing tax breaks had created a "failure in the structure of the private rental market".

This failure, she said, was not only preventing first home buyers from buying property, but forcing the most vulnerable people out of housing.

The report has called for "national leadership" on housing affordability from the Federal Government, despite the government revealing few plans with only two weeks until Treasurer Joe Hockey's second budget is released. 

Key affordable housing recommendations:

Reform negative gearing policy

Reverse plans to axe the National Rental Affordability Scheme

Create a national plan to address housing

Increase all welfare payments for those in need

Source: Anglicare Australia's 2015 Rental Affordability Snapshot

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