Monday, May 5, 2014

Worried, and paying for it - our Housing Affordability Survey

Anglicare's annual Rental Affordability Snapshots tell us there has been a scarcity of affordable rental housing in Sydney over the last few years. But that doesn't stop people from living in unaffordable housing. It just means they're worried. We probably didn't need our Affordable Housing Survey to tell us that, but we've just released the results and they're pretty convincing.

We can lock it in. Tenants are worried about affordability and security.

57 per cent of our survey respondents rent because they can't afford to buy.

64 per cent of them worry about paying the rent.

92 per cent of them worry about what would happen if they had to move.

Nevertheless, many do move - sometimes as frequently as once a year.

Many express satisfaction with their homes, and few claim to have a bad relationship with their landlord. But landlords don't always keep to their end of the bargain, and tenants often put up with problems in order to ‘stay under the radar’. Many worry that if they ask for repairs, the landlord might increase the rent – or worse, give notice, and make them move out.

At the same time, large numbers of tenants are paying significant amounts of their income on rent. In fact the only people whose rent averages less than 30% of income are older tenants on high incomes.

The survey suggests that things are especially bad for older, low-income renters. But wealthier tenants, younger tenants, and tenants in relatively secure social housing are all worried about security and affordability in the rental market.

Tackling some of the tax policy settings that restrict housing affordability, and giving tenants greater assurance of security would go a long way to alleviating some of this worry.

Whenever we try to have these conversations, we're told not to rock the boat. We're told landlords will take their money out of the housing market and invest it in other things. We're told that would be a disaster for renters.

But with over a decade and a half of booming house prices and rising rents, landlords have been onto a pretty good thing. Perhaps it’s time we did ask them: what's in it for us?

View the full Affordable Housing Survey report here.

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