with Chaplain Ross Jones
On October 9, I stood before the annual Anglican Synod audience to highlight the importance of the work we do at St Bart’s, and to call for government action to provide urgent financial support to ease rental stress and reduce homelessness.
In April this year, Anglicare WA released its annual Rental Affordability Snapshot and the results were shocking. Firstly, only two per cent of rentals are affordable for a single person on minimum wage, and zero affordable rentals for young people receiving the Youth Allowance. The Snapshot also found that in Western Australia, there were only 3,695 available private rentals in the Perth Metro, South-West, Great Southern and North-West regions, indicating availability had halved since the 2020 Snapshot. Meanwhile, median rents had increased by as much as 17 percent, and were expected to rise further.
According to the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Housing Affordability Survey released in June this year, the growth in rental costs in Perth over the last year far exceeds that experienced in all other state capital cities. These rent increases weigh heavily on household budgets, particularly for lower income families, many of whom are already in rental stress.
Compounding this situation is the concurrent reduced incomes for many households, with the end of both the Federal Government’s Coronavirus Supplement for those on JobSeeker and related payments, and the JobKeeper wage subsidy program in March 2021. This reduction in income support is a significant factor in lack of affordability.
While the state government has made positive initiatives to somewhat alleviate these issues, these statistics beg us to question of what other supports can we ask for? Here are just a few suggestions:
- Provide financial support that enables existing, vulnerable tenants to stay in their current rental properties.
- Amend the Residential Tenancies Act in WA to do away with the “no grounds” evictions, as well as limit rent increases, and allow for fast, fair and consistent dispute resolution between tenants and landlords.
- Provide funding for the delivery of short term, temporary accommodation on available land, or within suitable commercial space at the end of its economic life.
- The single biggest and simplest step to increasing housing affordability is adequate income support. We need the Federal Government to permanently increase rates of JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment and other related payments above the poverty line and increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance. We also need to index allowances in line with wage movements at least twice per year.
- Once families lose housing, they are much more vulnerable in their health, employment and social situation. We need expanded eligibility for the State Government’s Residential Rent Relief Grants Scheme to allow access for more low-income households and other targeted rent relief to keep people housed.
With only 119 social housing properties being built in the last three years, resulting in a net decrease in the total number of social houses, we need a whole of government response to identify and provide housing and short to medium term accommodation options. And we at St Bart’s will continue to work tirelessly towards a community where everyone has a safe and secure place to call home.