Anglicare WA’s 2023 Rental Affordability Snapshot shows how dire the housing situation is for Western Australians across the entire state.
Anglicare WA has been supporting communities in WA's North West for decades, currently working in Broome, Derby, Kununurra, Karratha, Hedland, Newman, and surrounding areas.
The charity delivers services in areas like family and domestic violence, child sexual abuse, suicide postvention, parenting support, family law, and, in the Pilbara, youth mental health.
The Snapshot, taken each year in March, captures the number of affordable and suitable rentals available for Western Australians on low incomes.
A property was considered affordable if it required less than 30 per cent of a household’s income, and considered appropriate if it had an adequate number of bedrooms.
In the North West, including the Pilbara and Kimberley, there were 192 available private rentals listed when the Snapshot was taken in March.
This was a 7.5 per cent drop since the same time last year, and 50 per cent fewer properties than were available at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
“Several years of declining availability, combined with 10 consecutive interest rate rises, has led to another escalation in rents since the 2022 Snapshot,” Mr Glasson said.
Rents have gone up 17 per cent in Perth, 24 per cent in the South West and Great Southern, and 25 per cent in the North West, from $600 per week to $750 per week.
“There are common issues affecting communities in rural and regional areas of WA, which are particularly prevalent in the North West,” Mr Glasson said.
“Family and domestic violence is a disproportionate issue in the region, as is the rising cost of living and the lack of available, affordable housing.
“The dire shortage – and expense – of accommodation is a persistent problem in the North West, an issue which has deteriorated in recent years.
“It’s a situation affecting both community members and our ability to support them. Clients struggle to find safe, appropriate accommodation, and we struggle to attract qualified staff to support the community, because accommodation is so scarce.”
In Broome, where Anglicare WA’s largest North West office is based, only five properties were listed on realestate.com.au last week with a rental price of less than $600 per week, and only three more were available when the price was raised to $1000 per week, which is unaffordable for anyone on a low income.
Last year, the WA government announced Broome as the location for the state’s fourth One Stop Hub for family and domestic violence services. “This will be a much welcome and desperately needed investment in support services for victim-survivors and their families,” Mr Glasson said.
“Communities in the Kimberley, and in many other regions across the state, need more funding and resources to bolster the coordinated response to family and domestic violence.”
Emergency relief, housing and food access
When COVID-19 hit, Anglicare WA and Foodbank WA partnered with other charity sectors to establish the Emergency Relief and Food Access Service as a hotline to connect people in need with relevant support services.
Still in operation, this service referred over 800 people to Foodbank WA for food assistance in May 2023.
“We expect demand for our services to continue to rise with cost of living. We are already seeing more and more people who struggle to put food on the table,” Foodbank WA CEO Kate O’Hara said.
“Food is seen as a discretionary spend because your rent, mortgage and bills are set and need to be paid, the car still needs to be filled. So food is where people tend to cut.
“The triggers to stay out of poverty, the first step is often food. If you can get the food costs down then you don’t face homelessness because you can then put the unspent money into rent or the mortgage.”
Foodbank WA is one of the many organisations supporting an increase to the rate of JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and all income support payments to ensure everyone has enough to cover the basics.
“We support the Raise the Rate for Good campaign,” Ms O’Hara said.
“We know with the COVID-19 Government assistance – JobSeeker, JobKeeper and the rent moratorium – in 2020 and early 2021, anecdotally people told us they were able to cope better.
“When these ended, demand for our services has continued to rise month on month.”
Anglicare WA North West Service Manager Carina Cooke explained that if the gap between services and community need isn’t addressed in WA’s rural and remote regions, we will continue to see that gap reflected in poorer quality of life and outcomes for people outside of the Perth metro region.
“With housing shortages in these towns resulting in staff vacancies across many social services, the ability to provide support to individuals, families and communities is compromised,” she explained.
“Anglicare WA is incredibly concerned about the impact the housing shortage is having in these regions and welcome any opportunity to work with the sector, community, government and beyond on innovative solutions.
“We have had a qualified psychologist sleeping on friends' couches in hope that a property will come available for them to rent and allow them to remain in the North West supporting communities.“