Renters Homelessness
A new report commends action to help renters during the pandemic. Image – Canva.
  • The report looked at the effects of the pandemic on renters and homelessness
  • While Australia has done better than most countries, renters fared worse than homeowners
  • Overall, an outbreak of homelessness did not occur, although we are not at the end (yet)

A new report has made presented findings into the impact and reach of the COVID-19 pandemic on renters and homelessness.

The publication, ‘COVID-19: Rental Housing and Homelessness Impacts – An Initial Analysis‘ was commissioned by ACOSS-UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership by the City Futures Research Centre at the University of NSW, Sydney.

Describing 2020 as “turbulent”, with “marked differences between cities and regional areas”, its central finding was that renters were hit harder by the COVID-19 than homeowners, but that a sudden outbreak in disease and homelessness had been avoided, so far.

However, results varied between regional and city areas, and between homeowners and renters.

Nationally, renters’ incomes fell by 5% in the first four months of the pandemic (March to June 2020), while mortgage payers only saw a 0.2% decline.

The situation is worse for tenants when you consider their housing costs fell only 0.5% during the same period, while homeowners enjoyed a 5% fall.

Only a small proportion of private renters that suffered an income decline received a rent variation from their landlord, between 8% and 16%, said the report. At least 30% of them deferred rent, which implies that 75,000 renters across the country may have mounting rent deferred debts.

State government enforced eviction moratoriums successfully prevented tenants from being turfed out of their properties due to them not being able to pay. The report found that this policy was a “reasonably effective” response to the crisis and “generally understood.”

This, coupled with income support payments, generally succeeded in preventing an immediate increase in homelessness. Meanwhile, 40,000 rough sleepers and homeless people were housed in emergency accommodation during the pandemic.

Median rental prices 2020
Median rental prices for units, 2020. Source – Domain.

However, assistance to the homeless was only temporary. Only 8,000 of them found long term solutions to their housing problems.

Unlike four other countries the report looked at (the UK, New Zealand, Canada and the USA), Australia did not make any extra funding commitments to accommodate homelessness programs.

Conclusions

The report concludes by saying that while these were unprecedented times, there were lessons to be learnt.

Although Australia handled the crisis relatively well, and no big outbreak of homelessness or disease occurred, there were concerns about long term effects. It is still to be seen how the country will handle the situation as we (hopefully) start to ease out of the pandemic, if that is our next phase.

This will the focus of their next report, due out towards the end of 2021.

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