Renters in the Port Macquarie-Hastings local government area are experiencing stress.
A just-released report by Compass Housing measures housing affordability for renters and shows that housing stress kicks in when rents reach 30 per cent of income.
Across all dwellings, in the Port Macquarie-Hastings renters are currently spending 34 per cent of their income on rent, the report says.
The Affordable Housing Income Gap Report establishes the amount of additional income a typical renting household needs - the Affordable Housing Income Gap (AHIG) - to avoid housing stress on various types of dwellings in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
According to the report, the median rent in Port Macquarie (all dwellings) is $390; the weekly income needed to avoid housing stress is $1300. The median household income per week is $1148.
In dollar terms, median renting households in Port Macquarie have to find an extra $152 per week to avoid renter stress.
One Port Macquarie agency watching the effects of renter stress is Centacare Housing Program.
Manager Sue Blain says renters are being forced out of the mainstream market and onto social housing waiting lists or are forced to belt-tighten to make ends meet.
"We have seen an increase in people looking at social housing as an option because of the expense of the rental market," she said.
"Our waiting lists are now up to around 10 years for our 49 properties in our portfolio. We have to prioritise our clients in order to get people with the most needs into these properties.
"That leaves many families paying up to 39 per cent of their wage on a rental. That is causing renter stress.
"Families paying increased amounts of rent are doing without things. Kids are going without new shoes, are wearing hand-me-down uniforms, or are scrimping on what quality of food they are purchasing.
"That in turn has ramifications in the health outcomes of these families.
"The average family is now suffering from renter stress because they have to pay up to 39 per cent of their wage on rent," she said.
Centacare and Catholic Care of the Aged general manager, Bronwyn Chalker said renter stress does have a significant social impact.
"This is why it is important that organisations such as ours work closely with government on workable solutions," Ms Chalker said.
"Both Centacare and St Agnes’ Parish will continue to support families in social housing and increase our services should the opportunity arise.”
But one real estate leader says a number of combined factors may see an easing of renter stress.
Michael Percival says rents seem to be becoming more affordable because the number of properties being built is rising.
"As well, highway works have, fundamentally, finished so there is a good supply of rental properties available at the moment.
"If anything, rents are easing.
"A lot of landlords are more negotiable than they were 12 months ago. It doesn't mean that rents are not as expensive, it just means there is an easing of pressure on rents rising.
"Rents seem to be coming back."
Mr Percival also noted that Port Macquarie-Hastings' growth meant that the prospects for landlords were "still good".
"There appears to be a good equilibrium in the market, with a fair supply of rentals."
Anni Gill and her husband have been renting in Port Macquarie for the last two years and were happy to pay "top money" for a home.
However, they are now looking to downsize in order to save for a home deposit.
She says the local market lacks consistency in pricing and quality.
"We looked at two potential rental properties and really noticed the difference in costs," she said.
"The first was in a poor condition while just a few blocks away you could have gotten a really nice place with a swimming pool. The difference in rent was about $30; there just does not seem to be any consistency.
"We were originally from south of Woolongong and moved here because the rental and house prices were quite affordable. Now the prices are on par with the metropolitan areas."
Compass Housing spokesperson Martin Kennedy said the findings proved housing stress isn’t just a problem for low-income households.
“Even working people are struggling to afford suitable rental properties,” Mr Kennedy said.
“This can have a real impact on living standards because people in housing stress are less able to pay for other essentials like food, utilities, insurance, healthcare, childcare, and debt repayments,” he said.
“The steady decline of housing affordability for renters is part of a broader housing crisis driven by a combination of low interest rates, preferential tax treatment for investors, rapid population growth, artificial rationing of land supply, high transfer duties and, a prolonged failure to invest in social and affordable housing.”
The Report recommends the creation of a national housing plan with initiatives crossing all levels of government. They include:
- the construction of 500,000 social and affordable housing dwellings in the next 10 years,
- reviewing the tax and transfer system to strike a fairer balance between the level of support provided to investors, first home buyers and renters
- reforming state tenancy laws to provide greater security of tenure for renters and decrease demand for social housing.
Compass Housing is a NSW-based not for profit, community housing provider that manages more than 4500 properties in NSW, Queensland and New Zealand.
The report is available from www.compasshousing.org