Rental affordability drops to all-time low

Anglicare Australia’s Rental Affordability Snapshot 2024 surveyed over 45,000 rental across Australia and found that affordability has dropped to record lows.

Out of 45,115 rental listings,

  • 289 rentals (0.6%) were affordable for a person earning a full-time minimum wage
  • 89 rentals (0.2%) were affordable for a person on the Age Pension
  • 31 rentals (0.1%) were affordable for a person on the Disability Support Pension
  • 3 rentals, (0%) all sharehouses, were affordable for a person on JobSeeker
  • 0 rentals (0%) were affordable for a person on Youth Allowance.

The report’s introduction paints a grim and harrowing picture of rental affordability:

The worst it has ever been.

That is the only way to describe the current state of rental affordability in
Australia. The stark reality facing people on low incomes is that they will not find an affordable place
to live, that families will be evicted because another rent increase will push them beyond the limit,
and for those fortunate enough to find a home, they will be forced to choose between putting food
on the table and staying warm this winter or keeping a roof over their head.

This report will mark the fifteenth edition of Anglicare Australia’s Rental Affordability Snapshot. What
we have found is nothing short of horrifying.

Decades of housing policy failure has led us to this crisis point and there are no  signs of the crisis abating.

Living without a stable, affordable home is detrimental to every aspect of one’s life – health, security, employment, education, relationships and more. That’s why housing is a fundamental human right.
All of us are responsible, particularly all levels of government, for ensuring that safe and secure housing is available for all who need it.

People are dying on our streets. Do we really care?

The Guardian Australia has spent 12 months investigating the deaths of homeless Australians. The findings are greatly concerning and indicate that as a nation, we are oblivious to and at worse,  indifferent when it comes to the early death of some of the most vulnerable people in our country.

The study notes that the deaths of Australia’s rough sleepers are largely invisible.  Despite numerous requests by the homelessness sector, no government counts the number or understands the circumstances in which these deaths occur.

By contrast, England, Scotland, Wales and parts of Canada annually track the number and cause of death, the essential information needed to understand the scale and nature of the problem.

In WA, the Home2Health team led by Professor Lisa Woods, estimate that 360 rough sleepers died in Perth between 2020 and 2022. The median age of death was 50 years, a life expectancy gap of more than three decades compared to the general population.

The Guardian Australia’s research found that coronial records of 627 deaths had an average age of 44.5 years. For men, the average age was 45.2 and for women, the average age was 40.1. They note that ‘deaths of despair – suicide and overdose- are major drivers accounting for 20% and 30%  of deaths respectively.’

Indigenous Australians are over represented in the homeless population and in homeless deaths, accounting for 21.5% of homeless deaths (compared to 3.2% of the population).

Research tells us that people sleeping rough often have complex needs, and are likely to have a number of health issues that are impossible to treat or manage while sleeping rough.

Systemic Failures:

The investigation revealed deep systemic failings. The Guardian reports that:

  • Rough sleepers who present as suicidal to hospitals are being turned away or discharged back into homelessness due to a lack of beds, emergency housing and mental healthcare availability. In two cases identified by the Guardian, homeless Indigenous men linked their hospital presentation directly to their homelessness. One told staff: “It is hard to find a reason to live when you have nowhere to live.” They were discharged and found dead a short time later.

  • Rough sleepers are dying needlessly after encounters with police and the justice system on trivial matters, which lead to use of force or deaths in custody. In at least four cases seen by the Guardian, deaths occurred after arrests for minor public order offences, such as drinking in public and public urination.

  • Frontline workers say the chronic underfunding of specialised homelessness health services means easily treatable injuries and illnesses are being missed in early stages. This is compounding the significant toll homelessness causes on physical and mental health.

  • Homeless Australians are being subjected to brutal, sometimes fatal violence while sleeping rough, and being found in parks, squats and on the street shot, stabbed or bashed.

  • In one case, that of Sydney rough sleeper Roger Davies, police decided there were “no suspicious circumstances” despite evidence he had sustained fractures to nine ribs about the time he died and had complained of being subjected to violence and constant robberies while sleeping in a burnt-out squat house in Granville. They then failed to notify his family until more than two years after Davies was buried in a pauper’s grave.

  • In Western Australia, Indigenous families say the state government is evicting public housing residents even when it knows this will lead to homelessness. Guardian Australia is aware of at least two families whose loved ones died by suicide shortly after losing housing and becoming homeless. The state’s department of communities said terminations are sought only as a “last resort” and that they provide support to tenants facing eviction.

Homelessness is a health issue. Homelessness exacerbates existing health problems, creates new health problems and poor health can be a cause of homelessness.

Housing First is the evidence-based solution to solving homelessness for people with complex needs. Safe, affordable, permanent housing, without any pre-conditions, accompanied by wrap around supports to address all physical and mental health needs and other social needs, will end most people’s homelessness and risk of an early death.

The number of people dying on our streets is unclear. To fully  solve this issue, governments must commit to measuring the scale and circumstances of the deaths of people experiencing chronic homelessness.

Access the National Coronial Research Report here.

Read the Out in the Cold articles in the Guardian here.

Listen to the Podcast

What do we know about homelessness deaths in Australia – and why is nobody tracking them?

‘People are dying waiting for a house’: how Australia’s healthcare system leaves rough sleepers with nowhere to turn.

Homeless Australians are dying at age 44 on average in hidden crisis

On Whose Account? Government Spending on Housing

The Centre for Equitable Housing released a report that investigates what the Federal Government spends on housing every year, who gets the funding, and what are the objectives of the funding.

Some key findings from the report are:

  • The share of federal housing spending going to the lowest 20% of income earners declined from 44% in 1993 to 23% in 2023, while the share going to the top 20% increased from 9% to 43%.
  • In the last decade alone, the share going to the top 20% of earners has increased by over a third.
  • The share of total federal housing expenditure going to property investors rose from 16.5% in 1993-94 to 61.4% in 2021-22.
  • Investor tax concessions have grown from $1.5 billion in 2000 to an estimated $18 billion in 2024, effectively operating as a shadow housing policy with a significant impact on the market.
  • In 2023-2024, federal investor tax breaks will be worth more than ten times the amount spent by the Federal Government on social housing and homelessness services through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.

The report notes that:

The persistence of an approach that sees a home as a consumer good, and the role of the government to provide a welfare-based safety net to those not able to buy one, rather than as a fundamental economic right enabling full participation in society and security from harm, will never achieve the fundamental housing system reform so desperately needed.

The report can be accessed here.

The high cost of Australia’s unfair tax system

A new report by Maiy Azize from Everybody’s Home highlights the inequitable expenditure on tax breaks for investors versus expenditure on housing and homelessness services. The report examines how over the last forty years, Commonwealth Government housing policy has been geared to wards subsidising the private market, rather than directly supplying social housing.

In 2021 -2022, expenditure on negative gearing deductions and Capital Gains Tax exemptions was $8.5 Billion, while housing and homelessness spending was $1.6 Billion.

The report recommends:

  1. Abolish negative gearing and the capital gains tax to reduce speculative investment.
  2. Build one million social housing properties over the next two decades to meet current and future need.
  3. Increase and expand Commonwealth Rent Assistance so that it relieves financial stress for people on low incomes.

The report can be downloaded here.

Greater support for survivors of modern slavery

The Australian Government announced a funding boost of $24.3 million for the Support for Trafficked People Program, to better meet the needs of survivors of human trafficking.

The funding will be provided over 4 years, to increase the minimum length of time for support up to 90 days (from the current 45), provide additional support for victim-survivors with children, ensure financial support for visa holders not able to access Centrelink payments and provide follow-up after a client has left the program at three, six and 12 months.

The boost will also fund a pilot commencing in 2024 for up to 18 months, to allow for direct referrals to the program from community providers, without engagement with the Australian Federal Police, as is currently the case. Many survivors do not wish to engage with law enforcement and this trial will assist those survivors who currently miss out on support.

Read the full announcement here.

Social Justice Small Grants Open

The Mercy Foundation’s Social Justice Small Grants program is now open.  Grants up to $10,000 are available for community initiatives working to address social justice issues at the grass roots. Projects regarding First Nations peoples will be prioritised.

Applications are due in by 11 March 2024.

Read more about the program here.

Human trafficking reports increase in Australia

In the 2022/23 financial year, the Australian Federal Police received 340 reports of human trafficking, an increase of 46 compared to the previous year.

The AFP received:

  • 90 reports of forced marriage;
  • 90 reports of trafficking (inclusive of entry, exit and child trafficking);
  • 73 reports of sexual exploitation;
  • 43 reports of forced labour;
  • 18 reports of debt bondage;
  • 16 reports of domestic servitude;
  • 6 reports of deceptive recruitment; and
  • 4 reports of slavery

Walk Free’s Global Slavery Index reports that there may be as many as 41,000 people living in modern slavery in Australia.

Read more from the AFP here.

NSW Govt expands shared equity housing initiative

The NSW Government is expanding its Shared Equity Home Buyer Helper trial to include victim-survivors of domestic and family violence.

For participants in the program, the NSW Government will contribute up to 40% of the purchase price for a new home or 30% for an existing home. Eligible participants will secure a property with as little as 2% deposit. They will not require lenders mortgage insurance either.

Survivors of domestic violence are at greater risk of experiencing homelessness. This program will create a new pathway to home ownership.

Read the press release here. 

Whilst this program will suit some survivors, there is still a great need for a large and ongoing investment in social and affordable housing to provide a safe and secure place to live, particularly for families and individuals living on low incomes.

NSW Essential Housing Package released

The NSW Government announced the launch of the Essential Housing Package to increase social housing supply and trial innovative solutions to housing.

According to the press release, “The Essential Housing Package will help strengthen the safety net for those experiencing housing insecurity and provide wrap around support and services for some of our most vulnerable. The package includes crucial funding to extend access to temporary accommodation to create a better place for people in crisis, along with funding to specialist homelessness services that provide certainty and stability for the people who need it most.”

Read the release here


Violence impacts older women too

Older women are not always top of mind when we consider violence against women. Violence against older women is driven by gender inequality and ageism. Older women are more likely than men to be victims of intimate partner violence, other forms of family violence, violence from children and intergenerational violence.

Older women face particular forms of gender inequality throughout their lifetime. Examples include unpaid caring roles, low rates of pay, lack of superannuation, limited control of finances or decision making. Additionally, we don’t see older women  in media, government and business. Violence against older women is often ignored or overlooked because of their invisibility.

Our work on older women and homelessness indicates that domestic or family violence is a causal factor for  homelessness. Lack of housing options can force women to either stay in a violent relationship or become homeless. Investing in housing that is affordable and appropriate for the needs of older women is paramount.

OurWatch offers the following actions that can help prevent violence against older women:

  • Centre the voices of older women in your work, including as experts, mentors and leaders.
  • Reflect on your own individual attitudes and unconscious biases regarding gender and ageing, including reflecting on positive or negative associations with ageing, the language you use to describe older people, and your beliefs about older people’s relationships and sexuality.
  • Ensure your organisational policies, procedures and practices promote gender equality for all women, identify barriers to older people accessing your services, ensure older women are visible and represented in your organisation’s promotional materials and campaigns, and that your marketing strategy includes specific tactics to connect with older women.
  • Develop and deliver primary prevention activities tailored to older women and their experiences of violence. For example, financial literacy for older women, campaigns engaging older men and activities that challenge internalised ageism.
  • Apply an intersectional approach to your work with older women, recognising how intersecting forms of discrimination and oppression shape older women’s lives.
  • Ensure all primary prevention activities are accessible, including translations and appropriate formats for people with dementia and other disabilities.

All of us have a role to play in addressing violence against older women.