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• Media Release by Brotherhood of St Laurence, Shelter, SGS, Community Sector Banking

... with income growth failing to meet soaring prices

Hobart has nosedived to become Australia’s least affordable capital city to rent, with income growth failing to meet soaring rents, according to the May Rental Affordability Index (RAI).

The RAI is a price index for housing rental markets released biannually by National Shelter, Community Sector Banking and SGS Economics & Planning. It’s an indicator of rental affordability relative to household incomes.

With an RAI of 102 in the December quarter, greater Hobart is now the least affordable capital city in Australia – knocking Sydney from its perch. Rents in Hobart are now unaffordable to even average income households.

“The latest Rental Affordability Index shows the rental crisis continues. Financial stress, overcrowding and insecurity are the everyday reality of working families,” Ellen Witte, Partner at SGS Economics and Planning said.

“The results for Hobart are a real wake-up call,” Witte said. “There has been a single-minded focus on population growth, but a complete lack of vision of where this growth needs to go and how all households are going to be accommodated. Renting households, many of them working families, are now paying the price.”

Adrian Pisarski, Executive Officer at National Shelter said that while there has been some slight improvement in some capitals, the situation has not improved at all for low income households.

“For Households below the median income rental affordability remains a real problem while for households on moderate and low wages and benefits we have a genuine crisis in rental affordability,” Pisarski said. “The situation in Hobart is alarming with Hobart overtaking Sydney as the least affordable place to rent in the country.”

“The latest RAI shows the serious need for a state and national housing plan – without action, lower income earners will be forced from our cities and capitals like Sydney will lose vital workers, like those in hospitality,” said Andrew Cairns, CEO of Community Sector Banking.

Conny Lenneberg, Executive Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, said the data reflected the struggles of low income renters the Brotherhood worked with in outer suburbs of major cities and regional areas.

This is the first release of the Rental Affordability Index since the Brotherhood of St Laurence joined SGS Economics & Planning, National Shelter and Community Sector Banking as a sponsor.

“This study shows the depths of the housing crisis facing Australian renters on low incomes,” Lenneberg said. “People are facing deep challenges securing affordable housing in the private rental market, pushed further and further away from the areas from where the jobs are located.’’

“For some vulnerable people who are unemployed, the combination of very low rates of Newstart - as little as $38.98 a day for a single unemployed person - and rising rents for even modest accommodation, is proving unbearable. The consequence is that people are being pushed into homelessness.”

The decline in affordability is being driven by low incomes and a lack of rental housing. In Tasmania, household incomes are significantly lower than the national average, while rents are comparable to mainland averages.

The average household in Hobart faces rents at 29% of total income, putting it on the verge of housing stress – when it becomes difficult to afford essentials, like food and healthcare.

And the problem is spreading – areas such as Margate and Sorell are also now unaffordable to median households.

The situation is most dire for those on lower incomes.

A single pensioner faces severely unaffordable rents at 44% of income, while pensioner couples faces rents at 32% of income, which is deemed unaffordable.

It’s worse for a single person on benefits – they face extremely unaffordable rents at 68% of income, while a single part-time worker parent on benefits faces rents at 42% of income, which is severely unaffordable.

Speaking on what could be done to address the crisis, Witte said, “there are opportunities to further streamline development planning processes, but more importantly to invest in social and affordable housing for workers. The use of instruments like the density bonus and inclusionary zoning needs to be maximised.”

National Shelter are also calling for change. “The data demonstrates the need for national leadership and a national housing strategy. We need to bring the threads of tax reform, incentives to encourage greater investment by institutional finance and states, planning reforms and urban and regional development together to tackle this problem,” Pisarski said.

Affordability better in regional Tasmania but Launceston declines With a RAI of 121, the average household in regional Tasmania faces rent at around 25% of income.

Towns in northern and eastern Tasmania, including Devonport, have relatively acceptable rents compared to regional incomes. However, Launceston has become moderately unaffordable in recent years.

An interactive map of the RAI at the small geographical area level can be found at the following website: http://www.sgsep.com.au/maps/thirdspace/australia-rental-affordability-index/

About Community Sector Banking
Community Sector Banking is the not-for-profit banking specialist for more than 13,000 organisations; it’s a joint venture between Bendigo Bank and the Community 21 consortium of not-for-profit organisations, established 15 years ago.

About National Shelter
National Shelter is a peak advocacy group whose mission is to create a “more just housing system, particularly for low-income Australian households.”

About SGS Economics & Planning
SGS Economics & Planning is a leading planning and economics firm whose purpose is to shape policy and investment decisions to achieve sustainable places, communities and economies.

About Brotherhood of St. Laurence
The Brotherhood of St Laurence is a community organisation that works to prevent and alleviate poverty across Australia.

• Media Release from Shelter, SGS

Hobart least affordable capital city in Australia, latest Rental Affordability Index confirms

Tasmania’s peak body for housing and homelessness continues to be concerned at the escalating levels of unaffordable rents, highlighted by the latest Rental Affordability Index (RAI) produced by SGS Economics & Planning.

“Rental affordability in Tasmania has fallen to its lowest point since the Index began in 2015. Hobart now outstrips Sydney as the least affordable capital in Australia with Tasmanian incomes failing to keep pace with soaring rental prices. The combination of rising rent and low income growth has created unprecedented hardship for many people seeking to find an affordable home”, Shelter Tas Executive Officer, Pattie Chugg said.

The RAI reveals the reality of renting across Tasmania, as it is the only index of its kind that compares household incomes with the cost of renting. The index is showing an increasing trend of rental stress across the state, where the households on the lowest 40% of incomes pay 30% or more of their income in rent.

“Rents in Tasmania are now on par with the rest of Australia, however average Tasmanian households earn over $300 a week less than mainland households. With over 8,000 low income households already in housing stress, rental unaffordability is now rising up the income ladder, increasingly impacting average working families”, Ellen Witte, Partner at SGS Economics and Planning said.

“The results for Hobart are a real wake-up call. There has been a single-minded focus by State Government on population growth, but a complete lack of vision of where this growth needs to go and how all households are going to be accommodated. Renting households, many of them working families, are now paying the price”, Ms Witte said.

The situation in greater Hobart has deteriorated over the past year, with even the average household now on the brink of housing stress, paying 29% of their income on rent. The problem isn’t confined to Hobart, as the decline in affordability for average households is increasingly felt in both Launceston and regional towns in the South like New Norfolk, Geeveston, Huonville and Cygnet.

“While the impact on average households is concerning, it is masking the grim reality that those on low incomes are facing an increasing risk of homelessness across Tasmania”, Ms Chugg said.

In regional North and North West Tasmania, rental homes in Devonport and Burnie are moderately unaffordable for low income Tasmanians such as single pensioners and single working parents on benefits. Across Tasmania, low income earners are being forced out, further away from jobs with poor transport options, or into severely overcrowded dwellings, entrenching their disadvantage.

“In such a competitive and unaffordable rental market, many low income earners must make impossible choices between essentials such as food and heating or having a home. Single parent working families, young people and aged and disability pensioners are the worst affected, paying up to 80% of their income on rent”, Ms Chugg said.

The lack of affordable and safe housing is the biggest cause of homelessness, and we know that homelessness is increasing. On any given night 1,622 Tasmanians have no place to call home. We know that young people are disproportionately affected by homelessness, making up 52% of homelessness services’ clients. We can and must do better”, Ms Chugg said.

“A strong economy must be built upon foundation of secure homes for all Tasmanians, however the rental affordability crisis is pushing out vital workers like those in tourism and hospitality from areas where they are needed the most. We must also plan ahead for our housing needs with an integrated approach to overall population growth and State economic development”, Ms Witte said.

“There are multiple policy levers at the Government’s disposal to address the housing crisis and work together with the development sector, for instance in regard to build-to-rent. Fact is, increasingly more households rent for the long term, as they can no longer afford to purchase a home, so there is a need to ensure renting is a sustainable, secure and affordable living option”, Ms Witte said.

“Tasmania’s deepening shortage of affordable and social housing has serious implications for the Tasmanian community as a whole as it undermines our economy’s ability to attract and retain a skilled workforce, and directly impacts our community’s health, education and overall wellbeing”, Ms Witte said.

“The benefits of our growing economy must be shared. With the State budget just around the corner, Shelter Tasmania repeats its call for the $60m in stamp duty windfall from the booming property market to be invested in new social housing. Tasmania needs at least 150 new public an community housing dwellings each year, which is the best way to guarantee that housing will stay affordable in the long term”, Ms Chugg said.

About the Rental Affordability Index:
National Shelter, Community Sector Banking, SGS Economics & Planning and Brotherhood of St. Laurence have released the Rental Affordability Index (RAI) biannually since 2015. The RAI is an easy to understand indicator of the price of rents relative to household incomes based on new rental agreements.
An interactive map of the RAI at the small geographical area level can be found at the following website:
http://www.sgsep.com.au/maps/thirdspace/australia-rental-affordability-index/

About Shelter Tasmania:
Shelter Tasmania is the peak body for housing and homelessness. For further information on Shelter Tasmania’s priorities for the State Budget, please see the submission on our website.
http://www.sheltertas.org.au/shelter-tas-state-budget-submission-2018-19/

• Media Release from Roger Jaensch, Minister for Housing

Rental affordability index

There is no doubt that Tasmania’s booming economy has resulted in more people than ever choosing Tasmania as the place to live, work and raise a family.

While this is good news for the state, it has resulted in real challenges for Tasmanians on low incomes seeking to buy or rent a house, which is why we convened the housing summit in March to bring together key stakeholders to identify solutions.

We are currently progressing all the agreed outcomes from the summit with a range of short, medium and long term solutions to ensure every Tasmanian has access to housing they can afford.

We know the best solution to our housing shortage is increased supply, and we are working closely with local government and the housing and property sectors on reforms that aim to deliver more residential land to market faster.

This is in addition to our first Affordable Housing Action Plan that is providing real relief for Tasmanians in need.

So far, it has helped more than 500 new households into affordable, secure and safe homes and is on track to assist 1,600 households into affordable housing by June 2019.

The Tasmanian Government is investing a further $125 million in phase two of the Affordable Housing Action Plan which is expected to provide an additional 1500 new affordable homes for Tasmanians, and assist around 2000 households.

This is on top of other commitments we have made that will increase the number of houses in Tasmania, such as:

• Extending the first home builders boost;

• a 50 per cent stamp duty holiday for first home buyers who purchase existing homes up to $400,000; and

• a three year land tax holiday for all new-build housing available for long term rental

We know there is still plenty more work to be done, and we are getting on with the job of delivering it.

A fact sheet on our actions to address the housing issues can be found here:http://www.premier.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/373511/Action_on_Housing_Fact_Sheet.pdf

Examiner: Singles on benefits priced out of regional Tasmanian rentals

ABC: Hobart now Australia’s most unaffordable city for tenants, new report finds