‘Moral crisis’ hurting pensioners

Australia is in the midst of “a great moral crisis”, according to Brotherhood of St Laurence Executive Director Conny Lenneberg.

“We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we have had 26 years of growth,” she said on the release of the May Rental Affordability Index (RAI), which measures rental affordability relative to household income,

“If Australia cannot afford to provide housing for all of its people, then I don’t know which other country in the world can.”

She said Australia needed a national housing strategy where all levels of government were investing in social housing.

The index – a biannual study published by National Shelter Community Sector Banking and SGS Economics and Planning – found that Hobart was the least affordable capital city in which to rent, in terms of the proportion of wages required to pay leases, followed by Sydney and Adelaide.

The latest report showed tenants in Hobart were spending 29 per cent of their wages on rent with Sydney renters close behind with 27 per cent, followed by Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth.

Housing economist Andrew Wilson said it costs an average of $420 a week to rent in Hobart.

“Sydney has been joined by Canberra as the most expensive capital city, asking rents for housing of $550 per week,” he said.

“Next highest is Darwin at $530 per week, Brisbane at $400, with Adelaide the second most affordable capital city, next to Perth at $375 per week.”

The report found that people on welfare simply could no longer afford to rent in most capital cities.

“With over 8000 low-income households already in housing stress, rental unaffordability is now rising up the income ladder,” the report said.

Ms Lenneberg said people on middle and low incomes around the country were being pushed to the outskirts of the cities.

Rising rents put even more pressure on retirees on the Age Pension who don’t own their own homes and the Federal Budget 2018 offered no respite.

Cash-Strapped Singles and Couples have been doing it tough, according to recent editions of YourLifeChoices Retirement Affordability Index™, with those tribes spending 36 per cent and 29 per cent respectively on housing.

Centrelink’s Rent Allowance in the past year has increased by 1.62 per cent for couples (from $191 per fortnight in March 2017 to $194.10 in March 2018) and by 2.04 per cent for singles ($117.80 to $120.20).

As one YourLifeChoices member said after the March announcement: “So it looks like I will be getting 90 cents per week increase in Rent Allowance (the increase compared with the September 2017 rates) and I have just received a letter notifying me that my rent will increase by $10 pw from 1 May. Definitely going backwards.”

Mission Australia has long sought a review of retirement incomes to ensure that older people can meet the cost of living. Chief Executive Catherine Yeomans is lobbying for a commitment from governments to build 60,000 extra public housing dwellings specifically for older people.

“If funding was made available to build one new supported aged care facility in each state each year, that would have a meaningful impact on addressing the current shortfall,” she said. 

Have you had to move because of rising rental costs? Should the allowance be increased?

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Written by Janelle Ward


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