Data released this week by Anglicare in its Rental Affordability Snapshot 2023 has revealed a “relentless crisis” in the ACT’s private rental market.
The snapshot evaluates the affordability and appropriateness of properties for low-income tenants on three major rental listings sites on a given weekend, in this case 18-19 March 2023.
According to the report, Canberra is one of the most expensive cities for renters, with low-income households struggling to find affordable options and a significant shortfall in new housing being built to support rising demand.
This year’s report found that in the ACT and Queanbeyan, 0-1 per cent of rental listings were “appropriate and affordable” for households on income support payments, and 0-2 per cent for households earning minimum wage.
“In the 14 years Anglicare has produced the Rental Affordability Snapshot, we have never seen an outlook as dire for our vulnerable community members,” Anglicare CEO Brandon Howard said.
At $695 a week, median rents in the ACT were about $140 higher than that of the combined capital cities, representing between 72 and 222 per cent of income for households on income support.
The Anglicare report noted social housing waiting lists had increased by 17 per cent in three years, and that short-term rental assistance such as the ACT Government’s rent relief fund was still not doing enough to mitigate the long-term impact of the housing crisis.
The shortage of affordable housing has led to overcrowding, homelessness and financial hardship, which has particularly affected women and single-parent families.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found nearly two-thirds of tenants accessing social housing programs were female, and DSS research found that in 2020-21, 42 per cent of people accessing specialist homelessness services were women, who had experienced violence, with children.
“People pay their rent and bills first, and then have little left over for food,” said Gillian Fox, an Anglicare volunteer at Gordon Community Centre’s food pantry. “The group we are seeing impacted the most is single mothers with multiple children, followed by aged pensioners, especially those living alone.”
Toora Women CEO Kellie Friend said the Anglicare report made for “alarming statistics” and Canberra was in “dire need” for affordable rented accommodation.
“We have known for some time Canberra is one of the most expensive cities in Australia to rent a home,” she said.
A non-profit organisation, Toora Women provides support for women impacted by domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse and other issues.
“These statistics are reflected in the programs at Toora Women, with some of Canberra’s most vulnerable women and their accompanying children struggling to afford adequate housing,” she said.
Ms Friend said Toora Women had helped 470 clients in Canberra in 2023 alone. “Concerningly, the length of stay in crisis and transitional accommodation is at a record high due to the lack of safe and secure exit options.”