Essential community sector workers locked out of ACT rental market

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today highlighted shocking research showing that high rents in the ACT are pushing essential community sector workers into serious financial stress.

The research, published by the Everybody’s Home campaign for Homelessness Week 2021, found that essential community sector workers would need to use between one third and two-thirds of a normal week’s wages to rent an apartment in most Canberra suburbs. To rent in the inner North or South, an essential community sector worker would need to sacrifice more than two thirds of a full working week’s income to rent an apartment.

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “Essential community sector workers are being forced into rental stress and housing insecurity because of the ongoing housing crisis in the ACT.

“Housing insecurity and homelessness are no longer issues only affecting Canberrans accessing community services. They are also a real concern for the community sector workforce who cannot afford the rising rents of Canberra’s houses and apartments.

“The COVID-19 health and economic crisis has highlighted the importance of our essential health and community sector workers. These are the people who have helped us get through the pandemic. Yet, across the ACT, these workers cannot compete for rental properties.

“Addressing the ACT’s housing crisis must be a priority for the forthcoming ACT Budget.

“We need the full, transparent and timely delivery of the ACT Housing Strategy and the delivery of all commitments in the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement which includes 400 additional public houses and 600 affordable rental dwellings.

“This should include empowering Community Housing Providers (CHPs) to address the shortfall of affordable homes through access to affordable land, rezoning to allow development by CHPs, and rates exemptions,” said Dr Campbell.

The Everybody’s Home research cross-referenced rental data with the basic hourly wage of workers in sectors including disability support, aged care, and childcare to reveal that essential workers would be forced into rental stress when renting an apartment in the ACT.

Rental stress is when low-income households spend more than one third of their income on rent, leaving insufficient funds to cover other basics such as food, transport and medical care.

Dr Campbell said: “Alongside the ACT’s housing crisis, chronic underfunding of the community sector is also preventing decent wage increases for workers. The ACT and Australian governments must step up and ensure that services are properly funded so that the dedicated and professional community sector staff are appropriately remunerated and recognised.

“Our workforce is at the heart of all that we do in the community sector to support those most at need. They should not be forced into rental stress, housing insecurity and possible homelessness because of the failings of government to address the chronic housing crisis,” said Dr Campbell.

Homelessness Week 2021 is from 1 to 7 August. This year’s theme is “Everybody needs a home”.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

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