People On Centrelink Can Afford Literally Zero Percent Of Rental Properties In Australia

'This is now our most critical social infrastructure crisis.'

What you need to know
  • Anglicare report surveyed 66,000 rental properties available on March 24
  • People surviving only on Youth Allowance could afford only two of those
  • That's 0.00004 percent
  • Anglicare described the housing situation as ‘dire’, ‘cause for alarm’, and ‘extraordinary’

Someone surviving solely on Newstart or Youth Allowance payments has been entirely priced out of the Australian rental market, with a damning new study showing that person would be able to reasonably afford only three out of 66,000 properties for rent in March - 0.00004 percent.

Anglicare’s annual rental snapshot, released in April, paints a grim picture of the housing situation for those living on government welfare payments. The report found there were effectively zero affordable options for those on the age pension, disability pension, parenting payment, Newstart or Youth Allowance.

Anglicare looked at 66,424 properties advertised for rent on March 24, analysing the rental prices against the amounts available under those payments. Housing is generally deemed to be ‘affordable’ if it costs no more than 30 percent of a household’s income. Under that criteria, there were only two affordable properties in the country for someone on Youth Allowance, and just three for a Newstart recipient; only 413 for a single person with two kids on the parenting payment; 406 for someone on the disability pension; and just 2700 properties out of 66,000 were affordable for someone on the aged pension.

Rental affordability is essentially zero for people on welfare

Rental affordability was slightly better in rural and regional areas than the major cities. Anglicare noted Sydney had an “extraordinary crisis in affordability” with zero percent of properties affordable for anyone surviving on welfare payments.

“I don’t know how much more critical it can get when you’re dealing with rates of zero,” Paul McDonald, CEO of Anglicare Victoria, told ten daily in April.

“Federal governments from both sides have been asleep at the wheel on this one for too long. This is now our most critical social infrastructure crisis.”

  • Youth Allowance - over 18, no children, living away from home - $445.80 per fortnight
  • Newstart - single, no children - $545.80 per fortnight
  • Disability pension - single, maximum payment, $826.20 per fortnight
  • Aged pension - single, maximum payment, $826.20 per fortnight
  • Parenting payment - single, maximum payment $762.40 per fortnight

“These results illustrate the finding an affordable and suitable home to rent in the private market is extraordinarily challenging if you are a person receiving government income support, with just 5 percent of properties overall meeting these essential criteria,” the Anglicare report said. The report’s authors variously described the housing situation as ‘dire’, ‘cause for alarm’, and ‘extraordinary’.

“Renting in the private market is simply unaffordable for people on government income support, meaning to have a roof over their head, people on very low incomes are having to sacrifice other essential needs. Sadly, these results are no surprise to us.”

People on welfare have almost zero options Getty Images

The rental snapshot also analysed how affordable the homes on offer on March 24 were for those on the minimum wage of $694 a week. Just 1805 properties, or 2.7 percent of the total available, were affordable for a single person on the minimum wage.

“Is Canberra a bubble? Have they lost the sense, the connection to real life drama that many families relate in relation to access to housing?” McDonald asked.

“They have a steadfast refusal, almost to the catatonic level, to look at increasing welfare benefits to allow these people to finance something affordable. They’re refusing to look at Newstart, which is well below the poverty line, yet people become impatient when they see homelessness on the street. You can’t have it both ways.”

“The feds need to see it as their job. That requires spending into social housing around the country, and upping our preparedness in higher unemployment places like rural Australia.”

Someone who knows all too well the struggle of living in cities on a low wage is Melbourne man Ayub. Now 30 years old and working in retail, he grew up in foster care and was forced to fend entirely for himself at age 18 when he aged out of the system and was no longer eligible for government-supported accommodation.

"From 18 to 22, I was living homeless with no stable accommodation. I was couch surfing, spending some time sleeping rough at bus shelters. It was quite daunting," he told ten daily.

"This now is the first time I’ve got my life under control, but the one thing i continue to find difficult is finding stable accommodation."

Due to his low income and lack of tenancy history after living homeless, Ayub found it impossible to secure his own private rental. Instead, he was forced to sub-let rooms from other tenants, meaning that while he has a roof over his head, he is not building up his own rental history to help find a place of his own. He is also paying a whopping 60 percent of his income on rent.

"Share housing is so competitive, and it's not even an option to get a place on my own. In the last six years, I've probably been to 100 inspections and not obtained any property," he said

"I'm there looking around, thinking about the formal process to apply, and knowing that I won't be successful because everyone looks better on paper than me. The only other option is living 30 km from work, which isn't an option for me."

"When you're subletting, you don't have a rental history. I’m subletting from other people, not real estate agents. I can provide payslips, proof of income, but there’s so many different boxes to tick, then they get to rental history but I've been subletting from people so I don't have a history from an agent."

McDonald said the expensive rental market meant people on the lowest incomes simply could not afford a home, or had to give up essentials to put a roof over their head.

"There is a very wicked combination going on here. There's no affordable rental availability if you're on Commonwealth benefits, then there's also the  rates of unemployment, particularly among young adults. You've either got nor no income to actually access the market, or no option to increase your income with a better job," he told ten daily.

"Fundamentally, when you're considering people’s basic needs, we have one fundamental need which is housing,  and that’s not being met by all Australians. It’s the requirement of the federal government to step into that breach."