Renters 'just barely' getting by as Anglicare urges action on 'crisis'

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Anglicare is demanding action on rental affordability in the federal budget, saying those on low incomes and welfare payments are struggling to find shelter.

Millions of Australians are struggling to find affordable and appropriate shelter, a peak advocacy group warns, as it demands action on rental housing in the upcoming federal budget.

At 26, Adam Owens is sharing a public-housing flat in Canberra with three others. He says the rental squeeze is still tight, and it occasionally forces him to forgo his asthma medication. 

"So, okay, (it's a,) well, do I starve that day, or do I breathe that day sort of thing. I'm only just managing to get by, just barely," he told SBS News.

"And it's not easy, because this place used to supply their residents with fridges. They don't anymore."

Rachel Eason, who lives in Canberra, also says she finds it difficult.

Ms Eason and her partner have two children aged 11 and 14, and she says not much is left over after rent on their three-bedroom house.

"Our rent is probably 45 per cent of my income. This year, we're all going to be wearing onesies at home so we don't have to put the heater on. That's how close we are."

The severity of the problem is outlined in the eighth Anglicare rental-affordability snapshot, based on a study of more than 67,000 properties in the first weekend of April.

Anglicare Australia says the dire shortage of affordable rentals is even worse for welfare recipients, whose "devastatingly inadequate" payments are pushing them into a poverty trap.

"Australians on low incomes are struggling to pay rent and make ends meet and people living on income support payments can hardly afford rent anywhere," Anglicare's Kasy Chambers said.

The organisation has released its eighth annual rental affordability survey of more than 67,000 properties across Australia, taken during the first weekend in April.

Roughly three-quarters were metropolitan properties while the remainder were in the regions:

  • 586 were affordable for a single person on a disability support pension;
  • 239 were affordable for a single parent with one child on Newstart;
  • 21 were affordable for a single person on Newstart; and
  • 8 were affordable for a single person on Youth Allowance in a property or share house.

A suitable rental was determined to be one which took up less than 30 per cent of the household's income.

"Many Australians already know our major cities are becoming places where only the very wealthy can avoid housing stress," Ms Chambers said.

"But this report shows renters on low incomes are in trouble all over Australia, with regional areas failing to offer relief."

Watch: ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie on rental affordability

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Anglicare is demanding the federal government do more to tackle the crisis and make homes available for those on low incomes.

"If the last eight years have shown us anything, it's that housing affordability is not a problem that can simply be left to the market."

It wants greater investment in public housing, improvements in renter's rights, support for diverse community housing options, and a commitment to winding back negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions.

The group is also calling for an urgent boost to income support payments.

"They're so low that paying rent means you can't then afford to buy food, clothing, transport or go to the doctor," Ms Chambers said.

Source SBS News, AAP

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