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Byron Shire
May 12, 2021

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Chris Dobney

On Saturday April 5, not one single property advertised for rent in Byron Bay was considered affordable for people on minimum incomes.

This was one of the shocking findings of the fifth annual Rental Affordability Snapshot conducted by the charity Anglicare.

Anglicare’s north coast director Estelle Graham told Echonetdaily that the problem locally was worse than in previous years – and worse than the national and statewide trends.

‘Nationally there was an 11 per cent increase of properties [advertised on the survey weekend] but in our region there was an 11 per cent decrease,’ Ms Graham said.

‘This is even more significant when you consider that Casino was included for the first time this year,’ she added.

And the affordability figures for Casino were among the better results from the region, the survey shows.

Apart from Byron Bay, which could not get any worse than zero, Ballina registered the biggest drop.

On the same Saturday, just two properties out of a total of 69 for rent in Ballina were considered affordable by those on low incomes. And even these could only be afforded by a couple with two children on at least the minimum wage.

‘The people who were best off were those on minimum wages [as opposed to pensions or government benefits],’ Ms Graham said.

‘But it’s bit alarming to see the availability even for this group has decreased markedly across the country (including 88 per cent in Ballina).

‘While they do have higher incomes than those on Newstart, these families don’t get healthcare cards and other extra benefits.’

Lismore and Casino fared better than Byron and Ballina.

On the survey weekend Lismore had 47 properties (43 per cent) and Casino 33 properties (58 per cent) considered affordable by a two-parent, two-child family on the minimum wage receiving Family Tax Benefits A and B.

By comparison, in Tweed Heads just six properties (nine per cent of the rental housing available that weekend) was considered affordable to this group.

‘Nationwide, not a single property advertised was considered affordable for a single person on Newstart and not many were available for couples either,’ Ms Graham said.

Whole-of-government approach

To address the problem, Anglicare is calling on the federal government to appoint a minister to co-ordinate the issue of housing.

‘At a national level we would love to see a federal housing minister as a senior position. It’s a significant problem nationally and needs significant response,’ Ms Graham said.

‘There needs to be a whole-of-government approach. There’s an increase in the divide and the longer it goes on the worse it gets.

‘Most of the public housing stock available to our clients has five- to ten-year waiting lists.

‘People needing housing need it soon, or they find themselves paying rent they can’t afford. Public housing is just not an immediate option in most places.’

As to what can be done about it, Anglicare believes the answer is to provide incentives to private landlords to invest in low-cost housing.

‘Most of the people coming to our doors need to access private properties so we need an incentive to private landlords to invest. People who own properties do so as a business opportunity. So why would they rent lower price?’

Ms Graham said that the ever-increasing home prices around the country are only compounding the problem.

‘The more expensive the properties are to buy, the more landlords have to charge.’

In the meantime, Anglicare is finding more people sleeping in their cars and on friends’ couches.

‘There’s a lot of hidden homelessness, overcrowding of properties. Not just young kids: older women are an emerging problem group,’ Ms Graham said.

‘Having adequate housing is just a basic human need.’


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6 COMMENTS

  1. Im not sure this government cares about the basic human need. Actually I am absolutely sure they don’t.

  2. Australia has seen an Economic Summit, a Tax Summit and even a 2020 summit. It seems it may be time to convene a Housing Summit so that all levels of government may come together to address the critical housing inequity that is facing ordinary Australians in 2014.

    Housing is a basic right of all Australians. By ignoring the growing inequity in housing affordability we are creating a more unequal society. This trend goes against the basic sense of a fair go for all Australians.

    Do we want a divided country or a fair go for everyone? The time to act on affordable housing has never been so urgent.

  3. I’m so glad that this issue is being talked about. I’ve been homeless three times in my years of living in this wonderful Rainbow region that I love so much, and it is an eye-opening experience. It is isolating, humiliating, a constant struggle on all levels. Currently I have a house to live in, but have been trying to find a more suitable place for myself (and my two cats) to move to for a few years now, for health reasons, and simply cannot find a place that I can afford, I understand that people need to make money from their property investments – but at what price?

  4. Bravo Chris Dobney for bringing this to the attention of locals – hopefully it will resonate with our community and we’ll see change in this area.
    Namaste Sahib,
    Sandy Gandhi

  5. Affordable housing is one issue, that is symptomatic of government policies, read deregulated housing .
    This crisis will only be resolved when there is a political change, and a shift in public policy towards more affordable housing, both first home buyers and rental. As long as the major political parties are captive to the doctrine of neo- liberalism, where the ”market” is supreme, then ordinary people will continue to suffer. Economic inequality will continue to widen, make no mistake about it

  6. I agree with Cr. Paul Spooner that a Housing Summit is a necessary action. The NSW Govt must take action now. If they do not we could possibly see a rise in the already problematic area of homelessness in our beautiful Northern Rivers region.
    Myself and several single mother friends find it so difficult to find basic housing for ourselves and our children that some are putting ex partners on rental applications just to get an application considered.
    You could expect one of your references called just to verify you are who you say you are, now 5 out of 5 are being called. Now why i understand real estates need to verify a persons identity they are also taking “bribes” of sorts by people offering up to 5 weeks rent in advance to secure a property, really? How can a singe mother working full time to just make ends meet afford to compete?
    Come on Govt, step up and level the housing opportunities for everyone. NOW.

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