Rental market is failing the Murraylands’ low income-earners, study shows
AC Care wants the federal government to increase Centrelink payments and provide more affordable housing to help job seekers, pensioners and minimum wage-earners.
The private rental market is failing job seekers, aged pensioners and minimum wage-earners in the Murraylands.
That’s the finding of a recent study by local homelessness service provider AC Care – and a warning to Treasurer Jim Chalmers ahead of Tuesday night’s federal budget.
On the weekend of March 18, according to the study, there were 112 rental properties advertised across the Murraylands, Riverland and Limestone Coast.
Of those properties:
None was rated as affordable for a single job seeker or Youth Allowance recipient
Only one would be affordable for a single aged or disability pensioner
Fewer than 15 per cent would be affordable for a single parent on a low income
Even a couple on the aged pension would struggle to afford a place, with just 22% of advertised rentals falling into their price range.
And even if they could afford a property, each of those tenants would have to compete against dozens of applicants with higher incomes.
The analysis was based on the internationally accepted benchmark that nobody should have to spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing.
Government must intervene in the rental market, AC Care says
AC Care CEO Shane Maddocks said it was clear that the government needed to intervene in the housing market.
“We are seeing more people than ever before in need of our homelessness and emergency relief services as an increasing number of country South Australians are at risk of homelessness, struggling to pay the rent with the rising cost of living and lack of affordable housing,” he said.
“We can’t wait and hope for limited existing housing on the private market to become more affordable.”
Building more social and affordable housing would go a long way towards fixing the problem, he said.
So would raising the rate of Centrelink payments “to a level where people can afford the basic essentials”.
“During the pandemic, it was proven that raising government support payments can effectively eliminate poverty and allow people to afford fresh food, fill their prescriptions, pay their bills on time and secure decent homes,” he said.
“(Raising the rate) is the only effective way to help vulnerable families and children on Centrelink payments escape poverty and find a secure and safe place to live.”
Get help: Visit AC Care at 29 Bridge Street, Murray Bridge during business hours, call them on 8531 4900 or call the Homelessness Gateway on 1800 003 308.
Can we afford to increase Centrelink benefits?
The Australian Council of Social Service, a peak body for community organisations, has suggested increasing both unemployment benefits and parenting payments to at least $70 per day, the same level as the aged pension.
That would cost a total of $44.4 billion over the next four years, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office.
If we wanted to spend a bit more, we could bring Jobseeker, parenting payments, carer payments and the aged pension up to the poverty line: $88 per day.
Doing that would cost $139.6 billion over four years, according to the PBO.
It all sounds like a lot, but bear in mind: total federal government expenditure over the next four years is forecast to be around $2.5 trillion, with a T.
And for comparison’s sake, upcoming changes to the tax system – the “stage three” tax cuts and removal of an offset for middle income-earners – will cost $85.7 billion over the same period.
Rather than low income-earners, those tax changes will mainly benefit people earning more than $125,000 per year, according to think-tank the Australia Institute.
Building enough social housing to keep up with demand – 36,000 new units per year – would be cheap by comparison, at just $4 billion over four years, according to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute.
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