Lift rent supplement by 30 per cent, government urged

Low-income renters are doing it tougher than ever and need urgent relief, according to Everybody’s Home campaign spokesperson Kate Colvin in the wake of the latest Productivity Commission (PC) report.

The annual report on government services provides “information on the equity, efficiency and effectiveness of government services in Australia” in a bid to improve public-sector performance.

Ms Colvin, speaking on behalf of national housing campaign Everybody’s Home, has called for an urgent 30 per cent increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA), with the PC report showing that 40 per cent of Australians receiving rent assistance live in chronic housing stress.

The report says that 40 per cent of low-income earners receiving CRA are paying more than 30 per cent of their income in rent, and that one in eight is spending more than half their income to keep a roof over their head.

The report also shows that the proportion of people able to find social housing is dropping due to underinvestment in social housing by successive governments.

Ms Colvin says the updated data shows the scale of the housing crisis across the nation, with Australians on low incomes forced to pay rents they can’t afford because there is nowhere else for them to go.

“Low income renters are doing it tougher than ever and need urgent relief,” she said.

“Over the past 20 years, rents have been rising faster than CPI (consumer price index), the rate at which CRA is indexed. Now the maximum rate for a family is $90 per week, but the median rent in Australia is $436.

“It means that even with rent assistance, many Australians are having to make the really tough choice between paying for basics like food or medication or paying the rent.

“At the same time, we’re seeing a drop in the proportion of households living in public or community housing because the housing just isn’t there for people who desperately need it.

“It’s time for the federal government to step in, provide leadership on the issue, and fix the broken housing system.”

YourLifeChoices’ 2019 Retirement Income Review Survey, which attracted 4910 responses from 230,000 members aged 50-plus, asked whether rent assistance – a maximum of $138 per fortnight for a single with no dependents and $130 per fortnight for a couple combined with no dependents – was sufficient.

A staggering 82 per cent said no. Of this group, 39 per cent said it should be increased by 30–40 per cent, 25 per cent said 50–60 per cent, 20 per cent said 10–20 per cent, five per cent said 70–80 per cent and 11 per cent said it should at least double.

The number of homeless Australians aged 65 and over has grown from 25 in 10,000 people to 27, according to the latest Census figures.

Salvation Army officer Major Paul Moulds says all governments must work together to develop a comprehensive long-term plan to tackle poverty and homelessness in Australia.

“An increase of welfare payments by a minimum of $75 per week to ensure that those reliant on government assistance can live with dignity, addressing the causes of cost of living pressures, and the development of a nationally coordinated homelessness and housing affordability strategy would make an enormous difference,” said Major Moulds.

He says that in the past five years the Salvation Army has experienced a 40 per cent increase in the number of people accessing financial counselling.

The Everybody’s Home campaign is seeking an increase in rent assistance and a national strategy to provide 500,000 social and affordable homes over the next 20 years.

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Written by Janelle Ward

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