02/05/2013 - 10:30

Soaring rents put homes out of reach

02/05/2013 - 10:30

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Soaring rents put homes out of reach
SNAPSHOT: Ian Carter says Perth's housing affordability is getting worse. Photo: Grant Currall

Low-income earners' prospects of finding affordable housing in Western Australia continue to decline, with Perth's median rent price up 16 per cent from 2012.

An average rental property in Perth now costs $520 per week, up from $450 per week in 2012, according to Anglicare WA's latest Rental Affordability Snapshot.

Less than one per cent of Perth's rental market was affordable for people on benefits or pensions, while just 5 per cent was affordable for minimum wage workers.

"This is our third year running the snapshot and the issue is not only unresolved, it is clearly getting worse," Anglicare chief executive Ian Carter said.

"The results of last year's snapshot were already staggeringly low and the market has become even less accessible this year. This is a genuine crisis."

The report measured the affordability of a sample of 4,282 rental properties across the state, with affordability calculated as 30 per cent of a household's gross income.

Couples working on the minimum wage with children could afford just 2.6 per cent of rental properties on the market, the report found, compared to 7.8 per cent the previous year.

Mr Carter called on governments to raise income support payments and invest in more affordable housing, warning rising rental costs were creating a disincentive for individuals in the public housing system to find employment.

"There is no incentive for people in public housing to get a job," he said.

"Once they are employed, they are pressured to leave the system and face this absurdly expensive rental market. It is safer for them to remain jobless but housed."

Greens' housing spokesman Scott Ludlam said the government should provide incentives for owners of vacant properties to put their properties on the market and boost supply.

The Greens' Convert to Rent initiative would see landlords receive grants of up to $21,000 to convert unused buildings to rental properties, which would then be leased at 80 per cent of the market rate.

"This program would see 15,000 rentals refurbished nationally for just $350 million," Senator Ludlam said.

"This is a modest investment that would make a difference to the shortfall of 500,000 affordable and available rental properties in Australia right now.

"The state government won't conduct an audit of vacant properties in WA but if the vacancy rate in Perth is the same as Melbourne's – 4.94 per cent – that would mean about 30,000 properties lying vacant while 50,000 people are on the waiting list for public housing."

Australian Bureau of Statistics data show 9.6 per cent of Perth's private dwellings were unoccupied on Census night in 2011, although this did not take into account temporary vacancies or holiday homes.

The state government's Affordable Housing Strategy has set the target of providing 20,000 affordable homes by 2020, through a combination of public housing, subsidised private rentals and shared equity home loans.

 A further 50,000 affordable properties are targeted for construction by 2016 through the federal government's National Rental Affordability Scheme.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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