After a year of upheaval, Australians are facing a rental market that has never been less affordable.
As we emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic and recover from the brutal downturn that followed, much of the commentary has been optimistic. Australia is bouncing back quickly, we are told. But this narrative leaves behind those who were hardest hit by the downturn – and those who were struggling long before it hit. Nearly two million people are either unemployed or underemployed. Many are renters, and they are navigating a rental market that is geared against them.
Our Snapshot shows there is a major disconnect between the commentary on the rental market and how it’s actually working for those on the lowest incomes.
Many will be surprised to learn that affordability has not improved for these people. Instead, it has crashed.
Government actions have not matched the scale of the crisis. Initially, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the Federal Government to plug some of the gaping holes in Australia’s safety net to avoid a major collapse. But these actions were not permanent, and they were not structural. As we took our Snapshot, the third and final cut to the rate of JobSeeker was about to come into effect.
The Snapshot was also taken as rent deferrals and eviction moratoriums expired in most parts of the country, with some renters in arrears for thousands of dollars. Many faced cuts to JobSeeker at the same time, while others – age pensioners, people with disability, and those earning the minimum wage – were left out of the Government’s response altogether.
No corner of Australia has been spared this crisis.
Affordability in regional areas has crashed over the past year, challenging the myth that country areas offer an affordable reprieve from the city. When people flocked to regional areas during the lockdown, they put pressure on regional housing markets. The homes they left behind in the city are stil far too expensive for people on low incomes.
As the Australian housing market continues to defy all assumptions, we must face the reality and the scale of this problem. We must find permanent and structural solutions to make sure that every Australian has the income they need to find a home, and to make sure that the homes are there to be found.
It is time for governments to take real action, and ensure every Australian has a home.