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Affordable rentals at all time low

A new snapshot survey by Anglicare shows an all-time low in affordable private rentals - further evidence of a “perfect storm” that is creating housing shortages in Tasmania.

A suburban streetscape in southern TasmaniaThe Rental Affordability Snapshot (RAS) counted the properties listed for rent in Tasmania on the weekend of March 23-24. These were then assessed to see if they were affordable and appropriate for people on low incomes such as pensioners, Newstart recipients and those on minimum wage.

The Snapshot found only 1,050 properties listed for rent across Tasmania – the lowest total ever recorded by the annual RAS. Of these listings, just 212 properties (22%) were affordable and appropriate for households that rely on income support payments.

Anglicare found that:

All of the properties were unaffordable for a single person on Youth Allowance or Newstart;

99% of the properties were unaffordable for a single parent on Newstart. The eight affordable properties were located on the West Coast;

97% of the properties were unaffordable for a person on a Disability Support Pension. The majority of affordable properties were located in the North West.

88% of properties were unaffordable for a single person on the Age Pension.

72% of properties were unaffordable for a family living on minimum wage earnings.

“There’s been a 60% drop in listings over the past seven years and this is making it difficult for people on low incomes to find any affordable rental, let alone have choices about location to be close to support networks and employment opportunities,” said Margie Law, a Researcher with Anglicare’s Social Action and Research Centre. “Anglicare clients tell us about competing against 40 or more prospective tenants when they apply for a rental,” she said.

Margie Law from Anglicare and Sue Leitch from COTAThe Tasmanian private rental market is not meeting the needs of older people who live on the Age Pension. The Snapshot data found only 122 properties state wide affordable for a single person on the Age Pension – and most of these were in share houses. Analysis showed 93 of the affordable properties were share houses (76%).

“A room in a share house is not going to suit everyone,” said Ms Law. “But there is little else on offer in the private rental market for either single people or couples who live on the Age Pension”.

“Our initial analysis indicates that the proportion of share houses has more than doubled in the past seven years. This is particularly stark in southern Tasmania where share houses now make up 26% of the total listings,” she said.

The Council on the Ageing (COTA) Tasmania said many older people in the private rental market were experiencing high levels of financial and emotional stress.

COTA Tasmania CEO Sue Leitch said the State of the Older Nation report highlighted the vulnerability of many older people who were renting. “Our research showed two thirds of those renting were vulnerable and their quality of life lower,” she said. “These vulnerable older Australians say that the cost of living – including rent - is increasing at a rate that is leaving them behind”.

Anglicare said the shortage in affordable housing options had been caused by a “perfect storm” of factors including inadequate investment in public and social housing, fueled by a long-standing public housing debt and a decline in private rental listings - with short-stay accommodation likely to be playing a leading role. “We are seeing greater competition for private rentals, increased waiting lists for public housing and unrelenting demand for homelessness services,” said Ms Law.

Anglicare has recommended the State Government invest in initiatives to quickly stimulate development of affordable housing. Anglicare has urged reform of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme to require a component of affordable housing in all new developments and redevelopments. “While we welcome the government’s latest action plan on affordable housing – which will provide more crisis accommodation and land releases – it is not enough to meet current or future housing demands,” said Ms Law.

“People on the lowest incomes are being pushed out of the rental market which is why we need Federal and State Governments to make major investments in affordable housing – to ensure everyone has a place to call home,” she said.

Released Monday April 29, 2019