THE amount of rental housing regarded as being “affordable” has dropped from 30 per cent of the total on offer to 7.6 per cent in a decade.
“Affordable housing is generally defined as accommodation expenses that account for no more than 30 per cent of gross household income,” Peninsula Community Legal Centre CEO Jackie Galloway said.
“With the Victorian housing crisis centred on the availability of affordable housing, the urgency to raise the rate of Newstart is becoming pressing. We are seeing the impact of the crisis with 75 per cent of PCLC’s clients on no to low income. Low income being defined as living on less than $26,000 per annum.”
Ms Galloway said the Newstart rate had not risen in real terms for more than two decades, while the cost of living in Australia had “increased substantially”. “Because of the growing gap between those that can afford to live and those that can’t, we are seeing an inevitable increase in the homelessness rate.”
Ms Galloway said the 2016 Census data indicated the rate of homelessness grew by 13.7 per cent over the previous five years and on Census night, more than 100,000 Australians were homeless with about 17,000 being children under 12.
“A single person living on Newstart is trying to make ends meet on $40 a day. The average rooming house rent is $200 a week and this usually only gives access to a single room with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities,” she said.
Conditions in rooming houses could be sub-standard and have the added problems of security and comfort.
“While the government argues that Newstart is not intended to be a payment you live on, it does not help if the payment is so low it is impossible to find living arrangements that support you to get yourself back to work,” Ms Galloway said.
She said the legal centre would continue advocating for the rights of rooming house residents through its outreach program.
“In the future, we hope these vulnerable people will be able to afford a home environment that enables them to have the opportunity to escape the entrapment of poverty.”
The rooming house outreach program (RHOP) is paid for through the Department of Health and Human Services and covers 17 municipalities and more than 800 registered rooming houses.
For more information about free legal services, call 9783 3600 or visit www.pclc.org.au.