Jobseekers, pensioners cannot afford to rent a house, agency warns

AC Care has called for higher government payments and more affordable housing after crunching the numbers on housing affordability in the Murraylands.

The stats have confirmed what many locals already knew: the lack of affordable rental housing is a big problem in the Murraylands.

Community agency AC Care has repeated a call for governments to increase benefit payments, invest in building houses and extend offers to support renters in response to its annual snapshot of housing affordability.

The numbers weren’t great in the Murraylands, Adelaide Hills, Riverland and South East.

How many of the 123 rental properties advertised across that region would cost no more than 30 per cent of household income, a standard measure of affordability?

For a single person on the unemployment benefit – Jobseeker – or Youth Allowance, the answer was zero.

Just three properties were affordable for an aged pensioner living alone.

For a couple with two children, a majority of rentals were too expensive unless both parents were working and earning the equivalent of the full-time minimum wage.

Meanwhile, two policies put in place to help renters during the COVID-19 pandemic – giving tenants the right to defer rental payments, and denying landlords the right to evict tenants who cannot pay – were due to run out on May 31.

AC Care chief executive officer Shane Maddocks said the private rental market was failing tenants on low incomes, and the government needed to step in.

“Nobody should be forced to make impossible sacrifices just to keep a roof over their head,” he said.

“It’s time to take real action, and make sure that everyone can have a place to call home.”

AC Care judged “affordable” to mean rent would take up no more than 30 per cent of household income, a fairly standard measure.

The Murray Bridge council has also called for greater government investment in public housing, given the shortage of rental properties in the district.

Homelessness funding gets a shake-up

More funding was also needed to help people who were at risk of homelessness, AC Care said as it released the rental affordability snapshot on Friday.

The very same day, the state government announced a major shake-up of homelessness funding in South Australia.

The new arrangement has caused turmoil in Adelaide, but not much will change here.

AC Care and the Moorundi Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service will simply work more closely together to address homelessness in the Murraylands, in partnership with other organisations on the Fleurieu Peninsula and in Mount Gambier.

Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink suggested the changes were about getting the most out of taxpayer dollars.

However, she also suggested country residents would end up finding it easier to access services, as they would not have to explain their situation over and over again.

“Ultimately, we’re undertaking this reform because we want better outcomes for our most vulnerable,” she said.

“Organisations in our regions already work collaboratively together ... this reform formalises this approach.”

Mr Maddocks welcomed the news.

“The agreement secures the future of our staff in the homelessness sector and the vital programs they deliver,” he said.

“We are proud of our existing cooperation with Aboriginal-controlled organisations and welcome this opportunity to work more closely under the new alliance arrangement.”

However, he suggested an ideal world would be one where fewer people needed homelessness services in the first place.

  • Get help: Contact the Homelessness Gateway on 1800 003 308; visit AC Care at 29 Bridge Street, Murray Bridge or go to www.accare.org.au.


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