An urgent plea to boost affordable housing has been made by one organisation after recent data revealed most of Australia’s essential workers aren’t able to afford the rising price of rent.
New data from Anglicare Australia revealed that in a pool of 45,895 rental listings across the country, only 2.4 per cent of them were affordable for an ambulance worker.
Nurses are in an even worse position, with only 666 rentals across the entire nation within their budget.
Aged care workers could only realistically afford 1.1 per cent of the available rentals, and early childhood educators could only afford 0.9 per cent.
Despite being in full time work, people in these professions, as well as hospitality workers and construction workers, simply aren’t able to afford most of the rental properties that are currently on the market, according to the data.
The Rental Affordability Snapshot found that the lowest paid workers on the list – hospitality workers – could only afford six properties in WA and 70 in Victoria.
Affordable properties for these employees in Victoria were also mostly share houses.
In New South Wales, social and community workers only had 259 homes to choose from, and hospitality workers were left with 233 – less than 1.5 per cent of the state’s rental market.
“Affordability was consistently poor across the nation,” the report stated.
“In every state and territory, less than three per cent of rentals were affordable for a community services worker.”
In Tasmania, community service workers could only afford 19 of the available listings, and workers looking to rent in WA could afford only nine.
Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said the data shows essential workers are being pushed into “serious rental stress.”
“So many essential industries are facing workforce shortages with workers unable to afford to stay or move to parts of the country where these shortages are at their worst, “ Ms Chambers said.
“These numbers help explain why.
“Virtually no part of Australia is affordable for aged care workers, early childhood educators, cleaners, nurses and many other essential workers we rely on. They cannot afford to live in their own communities.”
Compounding the issue is Australia’s record-low vacancy rate.
While there were consistently more than 65,000 properties available to rent when the Snapshot study was conducted throughout 2018-21, Australia’s vaancy rate is currently just 0.8 per cent of all homes.
This in term has seen rent prices soar, with states now grappling with how to fix further price spikes caused by prospective tenants bidding on rentals.
Ms Chambers said the best way to tackle the rental crisis is for social and affordable rental housing to be built.
She said the data shows the private market is failing people on average incomes, not just the people on low incomes.
“Even though Australia has built a record number of homes over the last ten years, rents keep soaring.
“The best way to make rentals more affordable is to build social and affordable homes.
“Building general homes and hoping affordability will trickle down just isn’t working.”
She called for more affordable housing for essential workers to be developed, and protections for renters experiencing unfair rent increases to come to be put in place.
“We’re calling on housing ministers to take action when they meet next week – and make sure everyone has a place to call home,” Ms Chambers said.
The report also calls for essential workers to receive higher salaries.
“Care work in the community services industry has historically been undervalued, and this is evident in low rates of pay across the sector,” the report stated.
“Increases are needed across the care sector to help recruit and retain a highly skilled workforce, make sure workers are paid a liveable wage and to avoid a situation where workers move from one part of the sector to another, leaving workforce shortages elsewhere.”