Rental Stress – still the main experience of very-low and low income households

Despite rental affordability across Sydney improving in the past year, the city remains critically unaffordable to significant proportions of the renting population, especially very low and low-income households. This was the concerning headline of the latest release of the Rental Affordability Index (RAI).
While there has been some general improvement in rental affordability across Greater Sydney, the difference for very low-income households has been negligible.

Lower-income households have to fork out a much higher proportion of their income to afford a roof over their heads in Greater Sydney:
– Single person on JobSeeker: 69% of income (extremely unaffordable) 
– Single pensioner: 79% of income (extremely unaffordable)
– Pensioner couple: 53% of income (severely unaffordable) 
– Single part-time worker parent on benefits: 47% of income (severely unaffordable)
– Full-time hospitality worker: 35% of income (unaffordable)

Adrian Pisarski, Executive Officer, National Shelter, said of the findings: “Despite JobSeeker being a welcome boost to many low-income renters, it was not enough to lift them out of rental stress. This shows the depth of our rental affordability problem, where even with additional support, there is not one place in Australia where a JobSeeker recipient can rent affordably.”
John Engeler, CEO Shelter (and Vice-Chairperson of National Shelter), discussed the findings of the research in this Domain article (Rents fall across capital cities but are still unaffordable for many tenants in Australia).  John expressed his concern for not just existing cohorts of people at risk of homelessness but a whole new group of people: those who lost jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and now find themselves in the low-income earner category, including many essential casual workers, who are now at high risk of rental stress. 

“Unequivocally, there will be a whole raft of people who’ve never had to even think about social housing that will have to join the waiting list,” John told Domain. John noted that the full impact would likely be felt at Easter next year, after the coronavirus-related financial support measures including JobKeeper and JobSeeker end in March.
And the issue is not just in Sydney. David Robertson, Head of Economic and Market Research at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, said: “We’re seeing more people working from home… and greater movements from capital cities to regional centres…
“Looking beneath the headline figures, rental stress is affecting the majority of very low-income households in Australia. This trend is creating pressure on regional rental markets and their associated infrastructure. Even in cities with higher than average incomes and better than average rental affordability, the plight of low-income renters continues to remain dire.”
More on the RAI and impacts in regional areas

The RAI is an indicator of the price of rents relative to household incomes based on new rental agreements. It is released annually by National Shelter, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, SGS Economics & Planning and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. The report provides an indication on the impact of early COVID-19 responses and supplement payments, measuring rental affordability for households until the June quarter 2020.  
To explore the data on an interactive site or to read the full report please go to: SGS Report – RAI December 2020