Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 11 April 2018) . . Page.. 1292 ..
our existing housing stock, so the proportion will continue to decline as our population increases.
It is not just housing assistance for people on very low incomes where there is room for and need for improvement. Our unaffordable housing market also affects people in the second and up into the third income quintiles. Most of these people are the people who serve us coffee, nurse us when we are ill and clean the offices when we go home to have dinner, and who are not eligible for social housing but are struggling in the private rental market. Or they are the new graduates working in the public service who have not yet got the high incomes that many people in Canberra have.
The ACT has the highest proportion of people—48 per cent—who are still in rental stress after receiving commonwealth rent assistance as compared to any other jurisdiction. Commonwealth rent assistance is an income supplement payable to eligible people who rent in the private rental market or community housing recipients of income support payments and people receiving more than the base rate of family tax benefit part A. Single people and couples without children who do not receive income support payments, even though they may be very low income earners, are not, unfortunately, eligible to receive the commonwealth rental assistance.
To highlight how this problem is spreading, in a recent article Macquarie University academic Ben Spies-Butcher summed up the issues with job insecurity and housing insecurity:
As more people work in less stable jobs—either on short-term contracts, or as casuals or in the ‘gig’ economy—so they can find it harder to access stable housing. First, without a stable job it is difficult to get a mortgage, which means you cannot buy a house.
Insecure work is just as much a problem for renters. If your income fluctuates every week it is hard to manage your finances to ensure you can cover the rent in periods where you have fewer hours or no work. Low paid and underemployed workers, who have less of a financial buffer when things get tight, are more likely to have insecure forms of employment. It is not surprising that this leads to a growing number of people scarifying essentials to pay the rent.
We all know family and friends who are affected by this unaffordable private rental market—they may be adult kids staying at home longer because they cannot afford to move out, people experiencing a relationship breakdown who can no longer afford to live separately in the way they used to, people who are still renting when they retire, and, as I mentioned, people in insecure employment with low wages or low hours of work.
Of course, I welcome the recent changes to the ACT’s affordable home purchase scheme resulting in, among other things, the affordable housing the government mandates being better targeted to those in need and hopefully affordable for longer. The innovation fund, which will look at home share and things like co-housing, which was part of the parliamentary agreement, is a great initiative. But the problem is that a