Rental stress hurting Illawarra families

Anglicare boss Matt Harden is concerned for low income renters in the region. Picture:  KIRK GILMOUR

Anglicare boss Matt Harden is concerned for low income renters in the region. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

A mere 4.3 per cent of Illawarra rental homes are considered appropriate and affordable for families on government income support payments, an Anglicare Sydney report has found.

The report, released on Wednesday, took a snapshot of the real estate market on the weekend of April 5 and 6 and found that only eight suitable rental properties were located in Dapto and Port Kembla, and only four in the Wollongong area.

Anglicare Sydney's rental affordability snapshot analysed 1037 properties that were available in the Illawarra on that weekend.

Of these properties, only 45 were found to be affordable and appropriate for households on government income support without placing them in rental stress.

Of the 45 suitable properties in the region, 19 were located in the Shoalhaven, 11 on the South Coast and 12 in the Illawarra.

Anglicare Illawarra manager Matt Harden said more affordable housing was desperately needed in the Illawarra, as high rents and lack of social housing stock were causing enormous stresses for low income families.

"In order to keep a roof over their head, many people will go into severe rental stress, spending more than 30 per cent of a very limited income on rent," Mr Harden said.

"This leaves very little for food and payment of utilities such as electricity."

Mr Harden said Anglicare's research had shown that people would go without food in order to pay their rent.

"We are very concerned with the onset of winter and what this may mean for people on the aged pension, disability support and Newstart who are privately renting," he said.

None

Most suitable properties were only affordable for couples who were both receiving either the Newstart allowance or the aged pension.

However, there were only four affordable properties for single people on the aged pension.


Struggler calls for more housing help

The widening gap between supply and demand for social and affordable housing needs to be urgently addressed, according to an Illawarra woman who has experienced housing stress.

The woman, who cannot be identified because she has fled a domestic violence situation, called on all levels of government to increase the supply of affordable and appropriate rental properties.

She said the fact  so many Australians were struggling to keep a tenancy or having to rely on others, including charities, to make ends meet was a significant issue.

‘‘There needs to be more community and social housing,’’ she said.

‘‘In my situation, I was living in a place which was only small, but then I had to leave, and even though I was fleeing family violence and I have a disability, public housing did not consider me a priority, which is just ridiculous.

‘‘People from low incomes are put in vulnerable positions. They are often forced to take unsafe and unsuitable accommodation.

‘‘It’s very frustrating and stacked against the people who are most vulnerable.’’

The woman is on a disability support pension and private rental costs account for 50per cent of her weekly income.

‘‘It’s not easy, but I can survive,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s been finding a suitable rental property that has been the problem. In the past, when I was on Newstart Allowance I couldn’t even get a private rental. The only thing I could afford was share accommodation.

‘‘Now that I’m on a disability pension, I can pay rent, but it’s half of my income. It’s not a champagne lifestyle that I lead; it just covers the basics.’’

In her bid to create a new solo life in a private rental property, the woman received financial support from Anglicare.

But she also needed a loan to pay the bond and help with advance rent and moving costs.


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