Productivity Commission highlights need to increase Rent Assistance and invest in social housing

The Australian Council of Social Service welcomes the call by the Productivity Commission for an increase to Rent Assistance, in its report released today on rental stress, which highlights the lack of public housing available.

The report – ‘Vulnerable Private Renters: Evidence and Options’ – finds the number of low-income households in rental stress has doubled in the past two decades. The report also finds that more 600,000 households are in rental stress (spending more than 30% of income on rent).

Rent Assistance is currently $68.50 a week for singles paying more than $150 per week in rent. Less than half of people receiving Newstart receive Rent Assistance.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said frozen income support payments, stagnant wages and a lack of investment in public housing had led to severe rates of rental stress among low income households and shameful national homelessness rates.

“Australia is in a housing affordability crisis and entrenched, severe rental stress is one of the most damaging impacts. This leaves people without enough money to meet other household expenses, let alone to save to buy their own home, and all too often leads to homelessness.

“Today’s report shows that in the last 20 years, the proportion of people in home ownership and social housing has fallen, leaving more people in the private rental market, including those on very low incomes.

“Secure, affordable housing is a foundation of community, participation and productivity. It’s incredibly hard for people to keep or find paid work when they do not have a safe, secure place to live and are in ongoing financial turmoil.

“ACOSS is calling for an increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance by an absolute minimum of 30%, around $20 per week, as a first step, pending a broader review of the supplement, as well as an immediate minimum increase to the single Newstart rate of $75 per week.

“By increasing Newstart and Rent Assistance, the Government can act on poverty, relieve rental stress and provide much-needed immediate economic stimulus.

“Government investment in social housing would also generate needed economic stimulus and jobs, while reducing homelessness,” Dr Goldie said.

For more on Social Housing as Infrastructure, see ACOSS briefing paper: https://www.acoss.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/ACOSS-Brief-Social-Housing-Investment-as-Infrastructure.pdf

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