1 September 2020

Anglicare warns rental affordability will collapse if JobSeeker payment reverts to Newstart

| Dominic Giannini
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Almost no affordable housing is available for Canberrans on JobSeeker. Photo: Region Media.

No Canberrans on the Federal Government’s JobSeeker payment will be able to access affordable housing once the coronavirus supplement is reduced and the payment reverts to its Newstart level, a new report has found.

To avoid financial stress, and be defined as ‘affordable housing’, rent should not exceed more than 30 per cent of a household budget, according to Anglicare.

In March, with the introduction of the COVID-19 supplement, the $550 per fortnight JobSeeker payment doubled to around $1,100 a fortnight

From 25 September, the supplement will fall to $250 a fortnight, taking the total JobSeeker payment to just over $800 a fortnight.

At the moment, though, only one per cent of ACT housing is deemed affordable for a single person on the current JobSeeker payment of $558 per week. This will decrease to 0.2 per cent on 25 September when the supplement is reduced by $150 to $408 per week, and then to zero per cent when the supplement is reduced to its pre-COVID amount of $283 per week at the end of the year.

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The snapshot of Australia’s rental market was taken on the weekend of 1 August 2020, analysing almost 77,000 properties nationwide.

According to Anglicare, a single adult with one young child will have affordable access to less than one per cent of the rental property market across all three payment amounts, while only five per cent of houses remain affordable for a couple currently on JobSeeker with two young children. This will fall to less than one per cent as the supplement is decreased.

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A regional breakdown of rental affordability in the ACT and Queanbeyan from Anglicare in March found that there were no affordable rentals for couples with two young children, a single parent with one child, or a single person on JobSeeker.

There were also no affordable rental properties for anyone on youth allowance or the disability support pension. Only four per cent of rental properties were deemed affordable for a single person on the minimum wage.

Both the Canberra Liberals and ACT Greens have used the report to call on the Government to deliver more social and affordable housing in the Territory.

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A recent report from the Australian National University found that the increased social security payments during the pandemic had reduced poverty and housing stress.

“Both the JobKeeper income supplement, and the increased JobSeeker program, have temporarily lowered the poverty gap in the ACT considerably according to the ANU report,” Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.

“As outlined in the report, financial pressure for some families could start to elevate when changes to the programs are introduced in September.”

Mr Barr said the ACT Government did what it could to support low-income Canberrans but he laid the blame for poverty at the Commonwealth’s feet as it was responsible for setting the Newstart rate.

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