A recent report has revealed one in four renters in Australia struggled to make ends meet with rent and bills, a quarter had skipped meals, and around 12 per cent sought an additional housemate to help pay their rent during COVID-19.
The findings of the Renting in the Time of COVID-19 report by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) are based on a survey of 15,000 renters with data collected between July and August 2020.
Another concern shared by one in six respondents was that their rent had become unaffordable, and 60 per cent of households had experienced a change in their income. The report further states that renters were worried about what will happen when financial assistance by the government, such as JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments, comes to an end.
Renters in Canberra are also facing an uncertain situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grace Hooper, general manager of property management at Independent, says her team is continuously working with landlords and renters to come up with the best possible outcome for both parties.
“While some landlords are flexible and willing to help where they can, others want to help but are not in a financial position to do so because they are themselves struggling,” she says.
However, Grace believes the situation is slightly better in Canberra compared to what other cities are facing.
“The rental market in the nation’s capital has been holding steady and the vacancy rate for September was less than one per cent,” she says. “We are a bit sheltered here because a lot of our workforce is employed by the government.”
According to Domain’s latest Rent Report, Canberra has returned to record-high pre-pandemic rental prices.
Data from the past three months reveals Canberra is still the most expensive city in Australia to rent a house. The median weekly price to rent a house is $580, up 1.8 per cent over the quarter, states the report.
Similarly, the median price to rent an apartment is $480 a week, up by 3.2 per cent compared to the same period in 2019. Canberra is the second-most expensive city to rent an apartment after Sydney.
Meanwhile, to prevent the eviction of renters who are unable to pay rent due to loss of income, a six-month moratorium period was granted by the Federal Government starting on 22 April. It has now been extended until 31 January.
“Restrictions in the wake of COVID-19 are now being relaxed, businesses have reopened and people have started working again,” says Grace. “That’s why the government is confident about easing the moratorium restrictions.”
Grace says renters will be contacted when the moratorium period ends.
“We will get in touch with our clients and update them on developments,” she says. “Since the start of COVID-19, we have been working with owners and tenants for a solution with the parties on a case by case basis.”
Grace encourages renters who are in a tricky situation to reach out to their property managers and agents.
“We are all doing the best we can in a situation we have not seen before,” she says.