Increasing the rate of JobSeeker and other government support payments was essential to addressing the housing affordability crisis on the north coast, Anglicare’s Annual Rental Snapshot has found.
The Snapshot, which paints an all-too-familiar picture of the region’s housing crisis, states unequivocally that support payments must be lifted above the poverty line to give badly needed relief to people on the lowest incomes.
‘It will allow them to afford the essentials they need to live their lives, and plan for their futures,’ the report’s authors said.
‘Most importantly, it will give more people the benefits of a secure home.’
The Morrison government temporarily doubled the JobSeeker rate during the early COVID-19 lockdowns, before returning it to the base rate.
In April last year, it increased this base rate by $50 a fortnight.
New government not committed to JobSeeker increase
The new Labor government has not committed to any additional increase to the JobSeeker payment and has dropped plans for a review of the rate.
This is a blow to the many people struggling to find a permanent home on the north coast – a task that the snapshot found was getting harder.
Conducted on the weekend of 19 March 2022, the snapshot found that 327 private rentals were advertised for rent across the entire north coast.
Just three homes, or less than one per cent of the total available rentals, were suitable for households living on income support payments without placing them in housing stress.
Twenty-three individual properties, or seven per cent of the rental stock, were suitable for households on the minimum wage.
This compares to last year’s snapshot where three per cent of properties were suitable households on income support and 12 per cent of individual properties were suitable for households on the minimum wage.
Unique circumstances faced by the north coast
The authors of the report said that the worsening situation was a consequence of the unique circumstances faced by residents of the north coast over the past year.
‘Housing was already under pressure due to people being dislocated from their homes after the fires and then covid saw an influx of people from urban areas, choosing to work from home in the regions,’ they said.
‘Reports from local Specialist Homelessness Services describe rental applicants offering several months, or up to a year, of rent in advance. With rents rising as demand rises, but with no increase in supply and the recent floods, it will only exacerbate this pressure.
Thousands of people displaced
‘The floods on the Far North Coast have seen thousands of people displaced; caravan parks, often the last viable low-cost option for renters were submerged.’
‘Rental accommodation on the north coast, already out of reach for those receiving the lowest incomes, is at an all-time low, available only to those with the ability to pay the premium attached.’
The reports found that, along with increasing the rate of JobSeeker and other support payments, the governments at both the State and federal level needed to take meaningful action.
‘Nobody should be forced to make impossible sacrifices just to keep a roof over their head,’ the report’s authors said.
‘It’s time to take real action, and make sure that everyone can have place to call home.’