SACOSS today released its latest Cost of Living report, which highlights rapidly increasing rent and rental affordability problems in regional South Australia.
“Our members have been telling us about housing problems in regional South Australia for a long time, and this report brings together the latest government data to map rental affordability challenges for people on low incomes," said SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley.
The report's key findings are that:
- Regional rents have gone up significantly in the last year and over the last decade. While there is considerable variation between regions, in many cases regional rents have gone up faster than both inflation and key income sources such as the age pension and the JobSeeker allowance.
- This situation has been compounded by the lack of availability of rental housing in regional areas, made worse by insufficient supply of public and social housing rentals.
- Regional rental prices are generally lower than in Adelaide, but with lower average household income in regional areas, the proportion of income going on rental costs is similar to Adelaide.
- Rents in regional areas are still unaffordable for people on very low incomes.
“SACOSS' report shows that while rents in regional South Australia are generally lower than in Adelaide, the affordability struggles are often just as acute," said Mr Womersley.
"Rents for 3-bedroom houses increased by above the inflation rate in 5 of the 8 regions over the last year, and when we try to match people on JobSeeker payments, age pension or minimum wages with rental costs across different regions, we find the average rental prices would lead to housing stress about half the time – and that assumes people can even find a home to rent!”
“There is no simple fix, but most obviously we need significant investment in public housing in the regions to increase supply of rental properties, and we need to review a range of housing concessions to assist those who are struggling most with rental affordability.
"The government’s budgeted expenditure to build 150 new public houses in regional South Australia is a welcome start, but much more needs to be done,” Mr Womersley said.
COMMENTS FROM REGIONAL SERVICE PROVIDERS
Shane Maddocks, Chief Executive Officer, ac.care:
“Our agency is doing everything it can to support people so that they have a roof over their head and they’re not sleeping in a car or a tent. We have seen first-hand the impact these dramatic rent and cost of living increases have had on regional South Australians, which is being compounded by the lack of available affordable housing and is pushing people into hardship.
"We desperately need an increase in the supply of affordable housing options in regional South Australia, including public and social housing, to meet demand and support low income earners living in country communities.”
Dr Harry Randhawa, Chief Executive Officer, Uniting Country SA:
“There are minimal rentals available, and those that are, are going to the highest bidder, precluding those with vulnerability and disadvantage. There is increased demand for emergency relief, financial counselling and homelessness services, which are seeing clients who are new to the system, are not necessarily unemployed, and who are utilising emergency relief for non-discretionary items like food and bills.
"Previously we’ve seen families come in for items such as appliances or other non-discretionary items whereas now the trend is to access the very basics. Demand for food vouchers has also increased and we are needing to hand out tents due to a lack of housing being available. This has a profound effect on the most vulnerable in our communities, as well as our organisation, which is unable to attract new staff and talent to the regions where we supply services. As a result, we are having to recruit internally, utilising existing part time staff to support other programs.”
Dr Jen Cleary, CEO, Centacare Catholic Country SA:
“It’s almost like we have gone back to days of a two-speed economy: those who are working particularly in some of the heavy industry jobs are able to get what housing is available, and those on the margins who are most vulnerable can’t afford houses, even the most basic housing, because of the demand. We are seeing more and more people around issues of rental affordability, people doing without basic things because they have to pay rent. We are seeing increased demand for emergency relief, financial support, and people seeking food.
“The housing issues and increasing fuel costs provide a perfect storm, together with the need to travel great distances in regional areas, limited public transport, and the rate of income support really being inadequate. We need a significant investment in public housing, especially for rural communities, and it would also be a great stimulus with local people being employed to build the houses.”