Renters are on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic. Many are losing their incomes, and some are scared of being forced out of their homes.
Our Rental Affordability Snapshot shows that welfare increases have given many Australians badly needed relief – but that the private rental market is still failing people on the lowest incomes.
On our Snapshot weekend of 1 August 2020, there were 76,962 properties listed for rent across Australia. The results show that affordability for people on low incomes has actually deteriorated since March.
With 1.6 million Australians out of work, we looked at what planned cuts to the JobSeeker payment would mean for affordability. These cuts will mean that many renters simply won’t be able to compete.
Our findings show that a person who is out of work can afford just 1 percent of rentals – and that’s with their payments doubled.
If the Government goes ahead with its plan to cut rates by $150 a week in September, affordability will plummet to 0.2 percent.
If payments are halved in December, a person out of work will find that 0 percent of rentals (13 listings out of 77,000) are affordable.
Single parents out of work face an even more dire situation, with affordability crashing to 0.1 percent for some single parent households if payments are cut. This shows how important JobSeeker has been to protecting children and families from poverty – around one million children now have a parent who relies on JobSeeker.
Some parents have kept their jobs, but even they have not been protected from the impact of this recession. A couple on the minimum wage with two children can afford 11.7% of rentals, down by almost half since March (21.3%). This shows how intense competition for affordable rentals has become.
Age pensioners have been left out of the increases. A single person on the age pension can afford 0.8% of rentals. Couples on the pension fare better – but not by much. They can afford just 1.7% of rentals.
People with disability have also been left behind by the changes. They are at the very bottom of the market, and can afford just 0.3% of rentals.
These findings are just the beginning.
We expect major disruptions to the rental market as payment cuts are phased-in and protections for renters expire. Rent deferrals and eviction moratoriums are ending soon, and some people are in arrears for thousands of dollars. Many are facing cuts to JobSeeker at the same time. This is a ticking time bomb that threatens to push many renters to the brink, with effects that will echo throughout the economy. For example, landlords often have mortgages on their rental property and higher JobSeeker rates are protecting them from defaults on rental payments.
Unless serious action is taken, Australia’s housing system could be rocked.
To find out more about the results, download the full Snapshot Update (3.9mb).