Housing stress – the crisis facing us in NSW

Today, National Shelter reports that many low-income households are paying up to 70 per cent of their income on rents. Jack de Groot, CEO St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, said that these latest figures demonstrate that the average Sydney renter is on the brink of disaster, facing housing stress.

“It is estimated 875,000 households in Australia are experiencing housing stress right now. This is unacceptable,” said Mr de Groot.

The rental market has become unaffordable for households on low and moderate incomes, pushing the average tenant to spend 29 per cent of their income on rent, according to the latest Rental Affordability Index (RAI), issued today by SGS Economics and Planning.

“Housing costs are arguably the single biggest driver of poverty and disadvantage in Australia. In preparation for the NSW Budget the Government and Opposition must prepare for bipartisan action to address this looming crisis,” said Mr de Groot.  

“Vinnies wants to see at least 15 per cent of new residential developments across the state set aside for affordable housing, where rent is kept below 30 per cent of income. Our petition calling for a change to NSW planning laws has already received over 16,000 signatures.

“Australians need to recover our fundamental belief in the right to a home. The dominant argument around housing affordability has been a financial one, with profiteering being the main driver when it comes to the Sydney rental market. A right to a home is superior to a right to invest.”

In 2015-16, specialist homelessness agencies like Vinnies assisted 279,000 people across Australia, equivalent to 1 in 85 Australians,[1] and 29 per cent sought help because they were experiencing housing stress.

“Housing stress impacts on the individual’s ability to pay for other essentials such as food, energy nd transport. We are watching the crisis unfold in NSW: in July energy costs are set to rise by up to 20 per cent and Opal card travel will increase by up 2.4 per cent. Too many people are on the cusp of poverty.

“Insufficient public investment in social housing in NSW has led to a crisis situation where over 60,000 applicants are now left waiting for social housing in NSW. Average waiting periods exceed 10 years in areas of highest needs such as Sydney.

“Dividends from the recent sale of assets must be applied to this challenge for our community.
“This national shame will not be dispelled until all governments collaborate with institutional investors and the not-for-profit sector to find a solution–more affordable housing stock and accessible services.”

[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Specialist Homelessness Services 2015-16.