Now that the ACT Government’s moratorium on evictions for rent arrears for COVID-19 impacted households has come to an end, struggling tenants will be able to access financial support through a new Rental Relief Fund.
Grants of up to $1000 can be accessed by eligible tenants and occupants to be paid directly to their landlord or grantor on their behalf.
The ACT Government has committed $133,000 to the fund.
ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury acknowledged that despite lockdown having now ended, many Canberrans are still struggling to make ends meet after what has been a challenging year.
“Many renters still face pressures, including financial pressures that built up during the lockdown period,” he said.
The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has welcomed the announcement of the one-off payment.
Acting CEO of ACTCOSS Craig Wallace said it is a timely action given the moratorium ended on Thursday, 25 November.
“We need to assist people who may have fallen behind on their rental payments to ensure they do not join the ranks of people in housing crisis or in situations of homelessness,” he said.
During the ACT’s recent COVID-19 lockdown, $5.25 million in emergency support measures was provided to tenants and landlords.
During the recent COVID-19 outbreak, the ACT Government implemented a 12-week moratorium on evictions for rent arrears for tenants in financial distress due to a loss of income or working hours as a result of the lockdown.
Impacted tenants who fell behind on rent during the moratorium will continue to be protected from eviction until 18 February, 2022, as long as they pay rent when it falls due.
Two recent reports have highlighted the worsening situation for renters in the ACT as they are increasingly forced to shell out more of their income just to keep a roof over their heads.
The 2021 Rental Affordability Index showed Canberra is the least affordable city for low-income renters in Australia.
To be eligible for the new grants, a household must be experiencing rental stress or severe financial hardship.
Rental stress exists where a household pays more than 30 per cent of its income in rent and has cash savings of $5000 or less, excluding superannuation.
Severe financial hardship can exist where a household pays more than 30 per cent of its income in rent and has cash savings of less than $3000.
According to the guidelines, applicants also need to meet income limits which vary depending on the number of people in the household.
For someone who lives in a share house, they can apply based on their individual circumstances rather than as a household. If eligible, they can receive a grant of up to $500.
Applications for a grant can be made through Care Financial Counselling Service. To make an application or to obtain an application form, contact Care Financial Counselling Service by phone on 02 6257 1788, or 0466 814 390, or by email at Microfinance.firstname.lastname@example.org.