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  • Nearly half of those receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance spent over 30% of income on housing
  • Nearly one-third of older Australians were experiencing housing stress
  • Some $5.7 billion was spent on social housing and homelessness in the latest financial year

The Productivity Commission recently released its Report on Government Services 2022.

The report found total recurrent expenditure for social housing and specialist homelessness services, across federal and state governments, was $5.7 billion in the 2020-2021 financial year.

The Australian government committed $1.7 billion to the total, with the states sharing the remainder. Social housing services made up most of the expenditure, $4.5 billion, with specialist homelessness services accounting for $1.7 billion.

As at 30 June 2021, the country had 299,520 social housing dwellings, down from 2020 when the country had 300,403 dwellings. It has generally been a downward trend, with 2019 seeing 305,191 dwellings in the country, and all the way back in 2012, 330,906.

Nationally, the number of households in social housing as at 30 June 2021 was 288,345, with New South Wales the state with the highest number at 93,131.

Concerns raised

National spokesperson for Everybody’s Home, Kate Colvin, said the landscape is stark:

“The Australian rental market now resembles a great white shark, swallowing family incomes almost whole. It’s simply astounding that even after receiving rent assistance, almost half of households are still in housing stress.”

Kate Colvin, Everybody’s Home national spokesperson

Housing stress is commonly defined as spending more than 30 per cent of income on housing.

In 2021, 45.7% of those on Commonwealth Rent Assistance were spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing, up from 40.5% in 2019, and 29.4% in 2020; the Covid supplement payment temporarily improved income security, said Everybody’s Home.

“The supply of affordable homes is rapidly vanishing for people on low and modest incomes as rents skyrocket. When federal politicians talk about a supply problem they need to get their priorities straight, we need more social and affordable housing to give people on modest incomes real choice,” said Ms Colvin.

The data revealed the vulnerability of older Australians to the spike in rents. Almost one-third of households receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance with a person over 75 paid more than 30 per cent of the income on rent

Ms Colvin called on decisionmakers to add stock, and make decisions based on reality:

“The best way to address this [issue] is to lift the historically low rates of social housing investment. We need at least 25,000 new social housing units built per year just to begin closing the widening housing gap.

“We also need a serious adjustment to Commonwealth Rent Assistance that reflects the reality of surging rents in Australia.”

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