28 April 2023

Canberra's housing crisis is 'relentless', new report finds

| Lizzie Waymouth
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housing from above

Residential vacancy rates are currently extremely low in the ACT. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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It’s crazy… almost like it’s a problem that was always within the ACT governments power to fix but they are intentionally withholding the release of new land to try and force their arbitrary density goals within the existing urban footprint.

There are currently 388 entire homes/apartments/guest houses and 124 rooms, effectively vacant in Canberra, listed on Air BnB. This has a huge impact on the availability of homes for sale and rent, which also increases the price of both.

In regards to public housing, especially tenants who are able to work full-time, perhaps a fixed term lease could be used to set up a rent-to-buy situation, where the rent paid is then classed as a deposit with the aim of eventually purchasing the home. Many low income earners are stuck between a rock and a hard place, paying rent and at the same time, unable to save for a deposit.

Incidental Tourist7:59 pm 01 May 23

Government should limit their public housing to mostly boarding houses to address acute homeless problem. Access to boarding houses should be readily available to everybody who need it or even want it. This is like food charity – everybody can have it if you want it, no questions asked. Granting long term private apartments let alone detached houses should be only on a case by case basis in most compelling circumstances and only for a fixed lease term. We just can’t afford singles occupying 3+ bedroom public houses virtually indefinitely simply because they were eligible sometime in the past. There is really no incentive for them to start working because they would loose generous and cheap public dwellings.

bev hutchinson7:12 pm 01 May 23

There are just so many govie homes here and around the country being lived in by fully employed people.. get out and make room for the needy. Also, why are there so many single people living in 3-4 bedroom govie houses?.. get out!!!!

devils_advocate10:19 am 01 May 23

Hrm. Have they tried imposing exorbitant land taxes and rates, on top of stamp duties, on landlords? Surely piling more and more taxes on landlords, in addition to increasing interest rates, will solve the problem.

Build commie blocks in the arboretum, if you oppose this you don’t care about homeless people.

Capital Retro9:06 am 01 May 23

Actually, homeless people should set up a tent city in the arboretum – just like the internal migrants in Europe have taken over caravan stops along the main roads in France.

Someone is living in a tent already in Fadden Pines.

HiddenDragon6:43 pm 29 Apr 23

The grim reality reflected in these statistics needs to be kept clearly in mind when the inevitable calls come for the federal government to contribute a few hundred million towards a new stadium for Canberra, following what was announced today for Hobart.

Canberra never used to have the highest rents in Australia. The rent prices in Canberra in 2014 – 2017 were average (before the introduction of the exorbitant land tax in the ACT).

The high rents in Canberra are due to the extremely high, every increasing, land taxes, land rates and the ongoing greed of the ACT govt. The land taxes in the ACT are the highest in Australia. Of course rents in Canberra will be very high if landlords are forced to pay hundreds of dollars every week to the greedy ACT government. The ACT government is just very lazy and doesn’t want to build public housing for low-income people, and instead wants private landlords to house everyone.

Bob the impala6:41 pm 29 Apr 23

“Canberra never used to have the highest rents in Australia. The rent prices in Canberra in 2014 – 2017 were average”
I am interested in the data source, jorie1, including about thirty years before today, comparatively across all capital cities, adjusted for median income.

Of course ACT land taxes are highest in Australia. You neglected to mention that stamp duties for investment properties are the lowest in Australia. I don’t suppose a balanced view would be too much to ask?

It’s good you acknowledge the exorbitant high land taxes in Canberra, and it would be better if you acknowledge that this leads to high rents. Even if a landlord had great tenants and wanted to keep the rent low, they simply cannot as they have to pay hundreds of dollars (increases every year) every week to the greedy ACT government.

Rents are high in part because the ACT Govt charges exorbitant rates and land tax to fund their multitude of projects such as light rail. Naturally the landlords will pass these costs onto the tenants. Ask retirees, many who moved into apartments have had to sell as the Govt fees are prohibitive.

Light rail is 1% of the budget. Try harder

Bob the impala6:34 pm 29 Apr 23

Implicitly, they owned a house and an investment property so they had to move into an apartment? Unimpressive planning.

Perhaps you should try harder Alex.

Capital Retro9:02 am 01 May 23

Everyone has to have a roof over their head – how many people have access to a tram which is funded by ALL Canberrans?

CR, you could sleep on a tram seat. I guess that’s a roof over you head

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