AHURI Australia poverty
High housing costs are contributing to Australia’s poverty rate. Image: Canva.
  • AHURI's new report outlines a few solutions to alleviate Australia's poverty rate.
  • The federal government is planning to increase social housing supply.
  • One of the proposed solutions is to reform residential tenancy laws.

A new report from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), Poverty and Australian Housing, has put the spotlight on a few solutions that could alleviate the ill effects of poverty brought on by high housing costs. 

At the beginning of this year, Australian Council of Social Services CEO Cassandra Goldie said more than 3 million Australians are living in poverty.

Furthermore, Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Snapshot found there was practically no affordable rentals for those on income support payments.

Mortgage holders are also not exempt from poverty risks, with 29% shelling out 25% to 45% of their after-tax household income on their home loan.

University of New South Wales (UNSW) Professor and lead author of the report, Kylie Valentine, said there is shame and stigma associated with poverty, and so those experiencing it may be reluctant to disclose their circumstances.

“The high cost of housing can leave people in poverty with insufficient money for essentials such as food, transport and education,” said Valentine.

“It is vital to recognise the lived experiences of poverty and its pervasive impacts, including on housing.

“We found that people experiencing poverty suffered a constant sense of stress and worry about whether their basic needs will be met.

“Where affordable housing can offer safety and security, for people experiencing poverty, these elements of life are often absent or very difficult to access.”

How the Government is alleviating the high cost of housing

In the 2023-24 State Budget, the WA government announced a $511 million boost to lagging housing supply, a portion of which would deliver 700 new social homes.

At the federal level, the Albanese Government announced a $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator which is expected to deliver thousands of new social rental homes across the country.

“Every Australian deserves the security of a roof over their head, and my Government is taking steps to deliver more homes around the country,” said Albanese.

In September, the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) passed after months of negotiations. One objective of the bill is to deliver 10,000 affordable homes over five years starting in 2024.

AHURI’s recommendations

However, Professor Valentine noted that Australia’s policy preferences for provision of housing by the market, with a focus on owner-occupation and private rentals, have contributed to the flow on effects on poverty.

“A recognition of the interrelationship between poverty and housing is essential when governments are delivering policies affecting housing,” said Valentine.

The researchers of the report pointed to a few courses of action that governments can take in order to improve housing outcomes for those living in poverty.

  • Expanding the eligibility for Specialist Homelessness Service programs that support the needs of people experiencing poverty.
  • Increasing the supply of public and social housing.
  • Extending the eligibility for Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
  • Reforming residential tenancy laws to align regulations for termination and eviction with the right-to-housing recognised in international law.

Valentine said for poverty to be eradicated, housing has to be framed as a human right.

“Alleviating poverty should be the responsibility of institutions of society acting in partnership with individuals experiencing poverty,” said Valentine.

“It should not be solely the responsibility of individuals alone.”

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