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Byron Shire
September 26, 2023

Richmond-Tweed families drowning in power bills, says NCOSS

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As the housing crisis worsens, almost half of financially disadvantaged households in Richmond-Tweed were unable to pay their utility bills on time in the last 12 months, according to new research from the NSW Council of Social Service.

Further, 62 per cent reported being in housing stress, defined as spending more than 30 per cent of your income on housing.

These findings are from peak advocacy body NCOSS’ latest Cost of Living in NSW 2023 research, undertaken by the University of Technology Sydney. The survey was undertaken in April and May of this year, involving a representative sample of 1,134 households living on low incomes and below the poverty line in regions across NSW.

NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty says the survey reveals just how tough life is for low income and below the poverty line households in Richmond-Tweed right now. ‘These figures are stark and show the extent to which households are being hammered on multiple fronts,’ she said.

‘These are households who, in the main, are working and who are doing everything they can to cut costs and keep their heads above water. But the compounding effects of COVID-19, sky-high inflation, successive disasters and flatlining wages have had a devastating impact – pushing many to breaking point.’

Key findings for Richmond-Tweed

  • 66 per cent reported having no money set aside for emergencies.
  • 38 per cent reported being unable to travel for essential reasons due to cost.
  • 36 per cent went without prescribed medication or healthcare.
  • 28 per cent had used ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ (BNPL) services to afford essential goods three or more times in the last year.
  • 29 per cent reported that they experienced extreme housing stress, with more than 50 per cent of their income spent on housing in the last year.

NCOSS says the survey exposes the steps people are taking just to get by.

NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty. Photo supplied.

‘We knew things were bad, but this is the worst we’ve seen in many years,’ said Joanna Quilty. ‘The impacts are showing through the increased stress and strain that relationships are under and families are experiencing.

‘People are hanging on by a knife edge. Savings have been eaten away, the use of Buy Now Pay Later is more prevalent and borrowing from family and friends is a growing necessity.

‘Our members – community organisations on the frontline – consistently report that they cannot keep up with demand, and that the needs of their communities are becoming more complex. New cohorts of people are appearing at their doors – families with two incomes who used to get by, but have now drained their savings and cannot put food on the table.’

What to do?

Ms Quilty said NCOSS has put forward a set of recommendations to the NSW government, developed in consultation with NCOSS members.

‘Our recommendations are aimed at tackling the underlying causes of the cost-of-living crisis – most notably energy bills and housing affordability – and providing immediate relief,’ she said.

‘The NSW government cannot quickly solve this crisis, but it can alleviate its most extreme impacts and help those who are doing everything they can to survive but have nothing left to give.’

Key recommendations

  • Improve the impact of NSW Government cost-of-living initiatives including permanently increasing EAPA vouchers to $2,000 pa and making the Low Income Household Rebate a fixed percentage of a person’s energy bill.
  • Build an additional 5,000 social housing residences each year, targeting unmet needs such as overcrowding for culturally diverse communities, and groups at greatest risk of homelessness.
  • Improve conditions and protections for NSW renters by urgently implementing: limits on rental increases so they are fair and reasonable; no-grounds evictions; and the elimination of rental bidding.
  • Strengthen the social service sector by developing a consistent approach to annual indexation that covers the real cost of service provision, and enhancing capacity of essential programs facing overwhelming demand.

For more information, and to read the full report, visit ncoss.org.au.

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    • Housing was once considered an essential of life, until the pollies decided to turn it into a business.

      ALP ( just like LibNat ) quite happy to keep throwing up $’stensofbillions in negative gearing and capital gains concession to keep the ‘magic of the market’ delivering the Housing and Rent FAIL. Who in their right mind does that?
      Given PM Albanese’s childhood, that he loves to tell us about, we expected a whole lot better.

      Thankfully the Greens are on the Housing and Rent Crisis case,it has only been through the Greens agitation that the Housing and Rent Crisis has been elevated to national headlines. In the Greens we trust, to get things done by the too slow, too lazy, couch dozing Albanese.

        • Greens don’t believe in details. They don’t care how their climate fear-mongering stats were cooked up, nor that the $10b is to finish funding housing projects that are already on going.

      • “Elevating it to national headlines” I assume means gaining maximum theatre and publicity for the Greens. Has it done a lot to solve the issue? Not according to Emily above – things are worse.

        Vacating centre stage and passing the bill? Now that might be a start.

        Emily could try voting back the LNP to see if that fixes the problem.

        • Libs didn’t work, Labs aren’t working, Greens wouldn’t work, so the logical thing to do is vote One Nation.

    • So Emily, by your thinking if we had stuck with the previous incompetent and grossly corrupt Coalition Govt, the present rental crisis would not be happening, somehow that just doesn’t make sense, just like your ill-conceived little anti Labor rant; the only political party making the rental crisis worse is the opportunistic Greens led by the equally opportunistic “self-promoting Cheshire cat”, “Mad Max” blocking the ELECTED Labor Govt’s REAL attempts at alleviating the situation. Emily there are no alternative facts only REAL ones.

      • Facts are determined by humans. Objective Reality continues to function regardless of what humans think happened, is happening, will happen. Your facts can be wrong. Others can have alternate facts. Objective Reality penalises whoever gets it wrong.

    • yeah, honestly, i hate to say this but the libs were right when they said labour are poor economic planners. Wouldnt want them in power, but it does seem things have only been made harder by this labour gov

  1. So rather than letting expensive wind farms go broke, give money to the poor, so they can pay their bills and keep green energy afloat longer. Then cap income on landlords while their outgoings keep increasing, so that no-one dare invest in building more rental houses. Then tax working families harder to build crappy overpriced butter-boxes, that no-one will ever be allowed to buy, creating a permanent renter class. Putting bandaids on symptoms gives you an effect faster than addressing the causes, but you are just kicking the can down the road. If you don’t bite the bullet, the bullet will eventually bite you.


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