At least 2.6 million people face poverty when COVID payments end and rental stress soars


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Simone Casey, RMIT University and Liss Ralston, Swinburne University of TechnologyMany Australians whose jobs were decimated by the COVID business shutdowns will soon be waking up to new income shocks and the prospect of rental stress. This is because people whose employers can’t afford to keep them on will suddenly lose more than A$300 per week when the JobKeeper scheme ends on March 28. Worryingly, this income shock will happen just days before the payment to people on the JobSeeker benefit is effectively cut by $100 per fortnight.

At that point, all income support recipients – more than 2.6 million people – will be below the poverty line and many will face extreme rental stress.




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$1 billion per year (or less) could halve rental housing stress


This income shock has been anticipated for some time, but what does it means for rates of rental stress, particularly in Victoria? Despite promising signs of recovery, Victorian jobs lost in the COVID-induced recession, such as in the hard-hit business tourism and live music industries, have not bounced back at the same rate as others.

What will happen to rental affordability?

To illustrate this point we have modelled housing affordability for single people who were on either the full-time or part-time JobKeeper rate. In this scenario, they could also get JobSeeker payments at a part-rate because of the temporary increase in the income-free threshold to $300. This made them eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance too.

The chart below shows the impacts on income and rental affordability when JobKeeper and Coronavirus Supplement payments end. Their incomes and the amount of rent they can afford are roughly halved.

Impacts of the loss of JobKeeper and Coronavirus Supplement on income and affordable rent.
Author provided

Full-time and part-time single workers were able to afford weekly rent of $265 and $245 respectively before the withdrawal of JobKeeper. Afterwards, affordable rent goes down to $115 per week. That’s about $110 less than the $450 median rent ($225 per person) for a two-bedroom share house in Melbourne.

Based on our earlier calculations, this leaves these renters with only $17.57 per day to meet basic costs. They have a lavish $3.57 per day more than they did before the pandemic to pay for food, utilities and job-seeking costs such as mobile phone plans and travel cards (A$4.40 a day in Melbourne).




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What is different now than for pre-COVID unemployment was that business shutdowns thrust people who had reliable earnings – and accompanying high rents and mortgages in metropolitan areas – onto JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments.

The chart below shows the change in rental affordability for a number of household types before the pandemic and during the Coronavirus Supplement stages (i.e. payments of $550, then $250, then $150).

Affordable rents by household types with supplement and without.

For example, when their income was highest during the $550 stage, two singles sharing could afford rent of $430 per week. Once the supplement ends and is replaced by the $25-a-week increase in JobSeeker payment, affordable rent declines to only $230 per week or $115 each.

Rental affordability for single-parent households is notable here because the COVID Supplement was payable to one person only. Once the supplement is withdrawn, they will again be disadvantaged relative to other households because they will not be receiving the increase in the JobSeeker payment.




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What sort of job losses can we expect?

It is hard to predict exactly how many people will lose their jobs when JobKeeper ends. What we do know is the economic recovery in Victoria has lagged behind the other states. We also know that at the end of December 2020 1.55 million people were on JobKeeper and a large proportion of them (626,000) were in Victoria.

Economist Jeff Borland conservatively estimates national job losses could range between 125,000 and 250,000. It is reasonable to expect as many as half of these could be in Victoria.

Our analysis also shows there are worrying signs that the economic recovery celebrated in the January labour force data was not sustained in February. The latest data provided to a Senate inquiry into COVID-19 show JobSeeker recipients increased by 7,267 between January and February. The increase in Victoria could be attributed to the temporary Christmas retail boom, but in states like New South Wales and Queensland claims decreased slightly.

While fewer people will lose their jobs in other states than in Victoria when JobKeeper is withdrawn, they are not immune to this income shock. We created the chart below to show the overall scale of the coming problem of rental stress when the fortnightly $150 Coronavirus Supplement disappears and is replaced by the $50 JobSeeker increase.

Households and people on income support falling under poverty line as COVID supplement reduces (based on DSS data February 2021)

Once the supplement reduced to $250 per fortnight, singles and single parents with two children were below the poverty line. When it was reduced to $150, the number of household types in poverty increased again. From April 1, all income support recipients – covering more than 2.6 million people including children – will be waking up to poverty and the prospect of extreme rental stress.

What can be done to avoid this?

So how can governments prevent people from falling off the rental cliff? It is unlikely to be achieved by introducing cut-price flights to Far North Queensland.

A new range of strategies will be needed. These include options advocated by ACOSS and others to increase the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 50%, increase the JobSeeker base rate above the poverty line and introduce rental stress grants targeted at individuals who need help.

Over the longer term, there is also a need to adopt strategic approaches to increase the supply of affordable rental housing such as those recommended by researchers at the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI).The Conversation

Simone Casey, Research Associate, Future Social Service Institute, RMIT University and Liss Ralston, Adjunct associate, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Build-to-rent surge will change apartment living for Australians, but for better or worse?


Megan Nethercote, RMIT University

Australia’s emerging build-to-rent sector is growing — “booming” by some accounts with a 70% jump in value in the past year. Under this model, institutional investors develop purpose-built rental apartments to retain and operate under single ownership. In Australia, it will change how apartments are designed and developed, how we are housed and how our tenancies are managed.

With 40 projects under way, an estimated 15,000 units worth more than A$10 billion are in the pipeline. Site availability has made Melbourne popular, with over 50% of the national market. Investors are active in Sydney, Perth and Queensland too.




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Sought-after neighbourhoods are earmarked for large developments. Many have 300 or more units, most at market-rate rents.

Build-to-rent is new to our shores, but hardly uncharted territory abroad. In the UK, the sector expanded exponentially from 2013 with government support. It now accounts for one in five new homes built in England and one in four in London.

In the US, the built-to-rent sector is relatively mature. It makes up almost two-thirds of the rental stock in many of the largest cities. Heavyweight corporate landlords operate as many as 400,000 units each.

In Australia, we need more data and more informed public debate to guide tax, design, planning and tenancy reforms to secure the best possible urban and social outcomes from the build-to-rent expansion.

The build-to-rent promise

Build-to-rent presents an enticing vision. For households, it promises several things:

  • flexible long-term tenancies

  • client-centric onsite management

  • hotel-style amenities and services

  • allowances for pets and personalisation, such as painting and decorating.

couple painting an apartment
One of the appeals of built-to-rent apartments is they offer tenants more options to personalise their homes.
Shutterstock

For cities, the model promises high-amenity, well-located, purpose-built rental apartments that cater to diverse and changing housing needs.

Proponents hail build-to-rent as a win-win. It’s seen as a salve for various housing woes, including concerns about housing supply, affordability, the private rental sector (including insecure tenancies and inexpert property and tenancy management) and apartment quality.




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Since the COVID-19 downturn, the model has been hailed as an economic lifeline too: good for the construction sector, good for jobs.

Rise of a new asset class

For build-to-rent investors, the rental revenue returns appear relatively modest. Under current market conditions, however, secure margins and “lower (but) for longer” investment prospects appeal.

Advocates continue to push for tax reforms. They point to a growing “weight of capital” awaiting more enticing returns. But many international build-to-rent behemoths, superannuation/pension funds, private equity firms and real estate investment trusts are entering our private rental sector regardless.

Institutional investors’ entry into our rental sector contributes to a broader paradigm shift in urban housing systems dubbed the financialisation of (rental) housing.




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Explainer: the financialisation of housing and what can be done about it


States have endorsed build-to-rent, improving its viability with land tax concessions, exemption from foreign investor surcharges, privileged planning pathways and pilot projects (e.g. in Queensland). The federal government’s position has been more ambiguous.

Crucially, the rise of build-to-rent sets in motion two important structural shifts

  1. institutionalising the private rental sector

  2. diversifying residential development models.

Historically, small-portfolio “mum and dad” landlords have owned and managed our rental stock. They are motivated by many of the same benefits (such as tax concessions and capital gains) and exposed to the same risks as owner-occupiers.

So we’ve had a high degree of integration between the private rental and owner-occupier sectors: few dwellings were purpose-built for renting and most homes were readily interchangeable between sectors.

Build to rent disrupts this integration. It replaces the fragmented ownership of apartment buildings under strata title laws with a single institutional owner.

Build to rent also diverges from familiar speculative build-to-sell development geared towards short-term profits. Its longer-term investment horizons give developers a new incentive to minimise a building’s running costs and to create apartments that appeal to and retain tenants.




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So will it deliver?

Will build to rent provide high-quality, high-amenity, professionally managed rental homes? And at what scale, for how long, and at what costs to whom?

In the longer term, will this model disrupt the socio-political twinning of home ownership and home?




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Could build to rent be a catalyst for more progressive tenancy reforms, leading towards tenure neutrality/equality where ownership isn’t seen as automatically superior to renting?

These questions matter. One in three Australian households now rent their housing. Some argue we’re headed for a “post-ownership” society in which most people rent their homes.

Private rental was once a route to ownership. Now it’s a destination. Ownership has been delayed, become unattainable or been “traded off” for flexibility and being able to live in desirable locations.

Tenants are also more diverse. There are more lower-income and higher-income earners and more families than ever before.

Renters endure short leases on often poorly maintained properties owned by a cottage industry of “mum and dad” landlords. Social housing options are few and far between in a sector that has been marginalised and residualised. More renters, uncapped rents, weak tenant protections and stagnating wages make for a toxic mix of housing stress and financial risk.




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Reasons to proceed with caution

We don’t have robust evidence to answer these questions, but limited evidence suggests caution is well advised.

In Australia, build-to-rent properties look set to attract rents of about 10-15% more than comparable non-BTR housing, just as they have in London. Without government subsidies, market-rate BTR will not provide more affordable housing.

Overseas, these rental premiums, alongside planning leniency (which reduced the affordable housing required of these developments), have been blamed for poor outcomes, such as residents being priced out of neighbourhoods they could once afford.

In Ireland, permissive planning concessions enable build-to-rent developers to circumvent design standards. This has raised concerns that build-to-rent may deliver smaller, less diverse and lower-amenity housing (less storage, for example) than standard build-to-sell development.

In New South Wales, BTR developments cannot be subdivided for 15 years (without clawback of land tax concessions). This ensures buildings remain in use as rental stock for that period. But what will happen after that?




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Why NSW is skewing its tax system toward build-to-rent apartments and away from mum and pop landlords


The Conversation


Megan Nethercote, ARC DECRA Fellow at the Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Eliminating most homelessness is achievable. It starts with prevention and ‘housing first’


Angela Spinney, Swinburne University of Technology

The stereotype of a homeless person – those living in tents or sleeping in parks or doorways – is just the visible tip of the much larger crisis of homelessness in Australia.

For every one of about 8,000 “rough sleepers” there about 14 others staying in temporary accommodation or with others in severely crowded dwellings. That’s a total of more than 116,000 homeless Australians, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics census data.

About 60% are under the age of 35, though the number of homeless aged 55 and older has been steadily increasing. About a quarter are women and children fleeing domestic violence.



CC BY-SA

The causes of homelessness are complex. The sterotype is that it involves mental illness and substance addiction. But the more common denominators are poverty, unemployment and a lack of affordable adequate housing.

Whatever the cause, research by myself and colleagues for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute proposes a path forward to reduce, and even eliminate, homelessness in Australia.

To do so requires moving away from treating the problem in an uncoordinated manner at the point of crisis and investing in an integrated system that prioritises prevention, fast rehousing and an adequate supply of affordable long-term housing.




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A historical legacy

Australia’s existing approach to dealing with homelessness is the legacy of a response originating in the 19th century, long before the advent of the modern welfare state, relying on charitable institutions to pick up the pieces of an economic system failing to care for the most vulnerable.

This has resulted in a somewhat chaotic system of small-scale and often disconnected services that are funded to only put a band-aid on the problem. It is mainly oriented towards crisis responses, with limited resources devoted to responding to homelessness once it has occurred, often only providing temporary relief from homelessness.

Federal, state and territory governments provide about A$250 million a year in funding to the 1,500 not-for-profit “specialist homelessness services” – organisations such as Launch Housing and Vincent Care – to provide support services and short-term accommodation in refuges, hostels, motels and caravan parks.

But this is insufficient to achieve the aim of even providing temporary accommodation to all those in need. Homeless services turn away almost 60% of those who ask for help. People instead have to rely on the kindness of family and friends, or sleep in their cars or on the street, while they wait to receive assistance. There is no statutory duty to provide assistance to homeless people in Australia.

The status quo is an expensive and unsatisfactory approach. We can do much better.




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Housing comes first

An emerging trend internationally is to reorient homelessness service systems away from a largely crisis response and towards prevention and long-term solutions.

The key is a “Housing First” approach, investing resources into first getting people into long-term accommodation, and then providing support to address the reasons they found themselves homeless in the first place.

Once housing is secured, relevant support workers can then support clients with particular needs, from preparing for employment, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, negotiating the legal system arising from domestic and family violence, and psychiatric or psychological counselling.

Evidence to the superiority of the “Housing First” approach comes from Norway. Over the past 12 years the number of homeless Norwegians has fallen by more than 35%. This compares with Australia’s approach, which in the past 20 years has managed to only marginally reduce the number of rough sleepers while other categories of homelessness have continued to rise.

We need an integrated strategy

A clear deficiency in Australia’s approach to homelessness has been the lack of any integrated national strategy and leadership. This means funding arrangements in states and territories are piecemeal and inadequate.

The first step in moving to a “Housing First” approach is coordinated federal and state funding for an adequate supply of affordable and social housing.


Chart showing number of social housing dwellings completed each year in Australia from 1969-2018

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Author provided

As we outline in our new report Ending homelessness in Australia: A redesigned homelessness service system, an integrated national strategy would also include an enhanced role for universal welfare services such as primary health services, schools and colleges to assist people at risk of homelessness.

They would have a duty to prevent homelessness when possible, assisting clients to maintain their existing housing or to access new housing. Where this is not possible, they would refer clients to specialist housing services for assistance finding crisis accommodation, and then long-term housing.

In this system, providing crisis accommodation would be the solution of last resort.

That affordable housing is the first step in solving homelessness may seem startlingly obvious. But, counterintuitively, that’s not the premise of how the current system works.




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We cannot stress enough how much an adequate planned supply of long-term affordable and social housing that is appropriate, secure and safe is vital to any successful attempt to end homelessness.The Conversation

Angela Spinney, Lecturer/Research Fellow in Housing and Urban Studies, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What did COVID do to rental markets? Rents fell as owners switched from Airbnb


Caitlin Buckle, University of Sydney; Nicole Gurran, University of Sydney; Patrick Harris, UNSW; Peter Phibbs, University of Sydney; Rashi Shrivastava, University of Sydney, and Tess Lea, University of Sydney

COVID-related travel restrictions and the sudden drop in tourism provided an ideal natural experiment to examine the impact of shifts in the supply of short-term rental accommodation. Our research, released today, found even modest reductions in Airbnb listings, as owners switched to longer-term rentals, increased supply of these properties. The result was lower local rents.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused various upheavals, with obvious impacts on health and employment, as well as a big drop in international migration. The impacts of these changes on rental markets are extremely difficult to track, particularly the impacts on people on the margins of the rental housing system. We investigated these impacts by analysing online listings on common online platforms for share/low-rent housing and short-stay accommodation.




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Listings data show images, prices and descriptions of rental housing. These data provide an insight into this largely hidden sector of the housing market.

Of particular concern are people who:

What happened to these rentals?

Online platforms have transformed the ways in which people search for and advertise housing, so offer unique insights into the market.

We looked at listings of share housing and lower-cost rentals on Flatmates.com.au, Gumtree.com.au and Realestate.com.au between April and May 2020. We also looked at short-stay rentals on Airbnb.

Our primary focus was on Sydney, where Australia’s rental affordability pressures are most extreme.

We found demand for, and supply of, risky rental accommodation in Sydney continued during the pandemic.

In snapshots taken during lockdown restrictions in Sydney in April and May 2020, there were:

  • 402 advertisements for rooms or granny flats on Gumtree.com.au in May

  • 4,731 share accommodation listings on Flatmates.com.au in April

  • 2,923 people seeking accommodation via Flatmates.com.au in April.

Screenshot from Flatmates website
Demand for and supply of shared accommodation on online platforms like Flatmates continued during the pandemic.
Flatmates



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Which renters are most at risk?

Of additional concern are older people in risky rentals who are more at risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms. More than 6,400 renters over the age of 60 lived in share (“group”) households in Sydney at the time of the 2016 census. It was estimated over 4,600 were homeless.

People working in public-facing roles such as healthcare workers, and in food and accommodation services are also at risk of virus transmission. Many of them live in unsuitable rental housing due to the low-paid and transient nature of their work.

According to the 2016 census, over 8,400 healthcare and social assistance workers were living in rented group households in Sydney. Over 1,800 were estimated to be homeless. One Flatmates.com listing clearly expressed the difficulties healthcare workers’ face when seeking a share rental during the pandemic:

For those who think I might have COVID just because I’m a nurse, I can assure you that I don’t have COVID!!! 😛 (Flatmates “person” listing, April 2020)

The difficulties lower-income renters face in Australia’s major cities reflect a chronic undersupply of social and affordable housing. Pre-pandemic studies suggested the rise of short-term accommodation platforms such as Airbnb added to these pressures by draining properties from the permanent rental supply.




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What happened to short-term rental housing?

We looked at Airbnb listings in Sydney and Hobart between March and April 2020. Using Inside Airbnb data, we found the number of whole homes listed on Airbnb for more than 60 days a year decreased by 22% in Hobart and 14% in Sydney in that time.

Airbnb home page for Sydney
There were significant falls in home listings on Airbnb in Sydney and Hobart after the pandemic hit.
Airbnb

Vacancy rates, rental bonds data and Flatmates.com.au listings suggest these decreases occurred because Airbnb owners converted their properties into permanent rentals.

This translated to better outcomes for local renters. Even modest reductions in Airbnb listings were associated with increased permanent rental supply and lower local rents.

Median rents decreased in the June quarter in nine selected Sydney local government areas (LGAs) and Hobart’s four main LGAs. Rents fell by 2-9% in both cities.

Hobart was a particularly interesting case study because of its large penetration of Airbnb. The Airbnb market in Hobart City LGA is about 11% of the total private rental market. It experienced a much smaller drop in rental demand than Sydney because of its smaller number of temporary overseas migrants.

The drop in rents was directly proportional to the size of the Airbnb market in each LGA. Hobart City with an Airbnb density of 11% had a decrease in median rents of 9%. Glenorchy with an Airbnb density of 1% had only a 2% decrease in median rents.




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How to improve life for renters on the margins

Our study contributes to a growing body of evidence on ways to improve the housing circumstances of lower-income renters and people at risk of homelessness.

Government action, such as increased JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments during the pandemic, has helped people to continue to pay rent and avoid resorting to precarious rental situations. However, even with these increases low-income renters can struggle to pay rent in unaffordable markets.

Obviously, increasing the supply of social and affordable housing would reduce dependence on the precarious and marginal rental market.

Similarly, a permanent increase in income-support payments such as JobSeeker and/or Commonwealth Rent Assistance would enable more households to get adequate housing without extreme financial stress.




Read more:
$1 billion per year (or less) could halve rental housing stress


Higher regulation of the private rental sector would increase security for tenants and improve accommodation standards. We could look to New Zealand’s “healthy homes” framework for inspiration.

Finally, to preserve permanent housing supply in high-demand markets, states should impose controls on short-term Airbnb-style rentals.

These steps are critical to provide safe and secure accommodation for those on the margins of housing markets as part of Australia’s post-pandemic recovery.The Conversation

Caitlin Buckle, Research Associate in Housing Studies, University of Sydney; Nicole Gurran, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Sydney; Patrick Harris, Senior Research Fellow, (Acting) Deputy Director, CHETRE, UNSW; Peter Phibbs, Director, Henry Halloran Trust, University of Sydney; Rashi Shrivastava, Research Assistant, University of Sydney, and Tess Lea, Associate Professor, Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Victoria’s $5.4bn Big Housing Build: it is big, but the social housing challenge is even bigger



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Katrina Raynor, University of Melbourne

The Victorian government has announced the big social housing investment for which housing advocates, industry groups, academics and social service providers have been clamouring for decades.

The A$5.4 billion “Big Housing Build” aims to create over 12,000 homes in four years. Of these, 9,300 will be social housing. The rest will be affordable or market-rate housing. The program will replace 1,100 old public housing units.




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The headline programs include:

  • $532 million to build on public land, including six “fast start” sites, resulting in 500 social housing homes and 540 affordable and market homes

  • $948 million to spot-purchase homes, projects in progress or ready-to-build dwellings from the private sector, adding 1,600 social housing and 200 affordable homes

  • $1.38 billion for community housing projects to build up to 4,200 homes

  • $2.14 billion for “new opportunities” with private sector and community housing providers, producing up to 5,200 homes.

Chart showing numbers of homes to be built over four years
The Big Housing Build time frame.
Homes Victoria/Victorian government, CC BY

Up to $1.25 billion will go into regional Victoria, which is welcome.

In addition, $498 million was announced in May to refurbish and build public housing.

Just how big is the Big Housing Build?

A target of 9,300 new social housing units over four years is definitely “big” by recent Victorian standards. The state’s social housing stock grew by just 12,500 dwellings over the past 15 years – about 830 dwellings a year.

The only comparable investment in Australia in the past two decades was the Commonwealth’s $5.6 billion Social Housing Initiative in 2009. This post-GFC stimulus program built around 19,700 social housing dwellings and repaired 12,000.

Chart showing number of social housing dwellings completed each year in Australia from 1969-2018

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Author provided

Is it enough?

No. It will take a long time and continued commitments of a similar scale to overcome the massive shortages in Victoria and Australia.

Victoria has a history of spending less on social housing per person than the rest of Australia.

Chart showing net recurrent spending per head of population for states and territories

Productivity Commission, Author provided

University of Melbourne research estimated a 164,000 shortfall in social and affordable housing in Victoria in 2018. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute estimated an extra 166,000 social units would be needed by 2036.




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The Big Housing Build aims to increase social housing dwellings in Victoria from 80,500 to about 89,000 – about 3.5% of all housing. That’s still less than the Australian average of 4.2% and the OECD average of 6%.

Chart showing social housing stock as percentage of total housing in Victoria and OECD countries.

OECD (data from 2018 or more current available), Author provided

What the scheme gets right

This program leans heavily on the use of state and local land to reduce the cost of the new housing. My colleagues and I have previously pointed out the large swathes of “lazy” government land across Victoria that could be used for this.




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Put unused and ‘lazy’ land to work to ease the affordable housing crisis


Offering $1.38 billion in competitive capital grants for community housing providers is also substantially more cost-effective for government than models that rely on private finance and provide an operating subsidy to providers. It appears the entire amount will be spent on supporting construction, rather than on creating a seed fund that drip-feeds investment returns into the not-for-profit sector like the Social Housing Growth Fund does.

Victoria is also joining Canada and the state of California in spot-purchasing homes from the private sector in response to COVID-19. This will deliver social housing quickly. It will also support developers in a depressed market while capitalising on lower prices.

The focus on victim-survivors of domestic violence, Indigenous Australians and people living with mental health conditions is welcome too.




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Remaining concerns

Privatisation of social housing

This announcement continues trends across Australia to shift social housing provision from a state responsibility (public housing) to a more partnership-based model led by community housing providers (community housing).

This approach can leverage substantial contributions from other sectors in the form of land, capital, skills and ideas, producing exemplary outcomes. An example is the Education First Youth Foyer partnership, which is changing how “at risk” young people access housing, education and other services.

However, complex arrangements between multiple partners, especially when using private finance, can be inefficient and costly. Such partnerships are often opportunistic rather than strategic, with priority given to commercial over social outcomes. Community housing residents have less tenancy rights than those in public housing and sometimes pay more of their income on rent.

An emphasis on mixed-tenure developments can lead to cherry-picking of “acceptable” tenants and destroy tightly knit communities. Previous public housing renewal programs based on private sector involvement left a legacy of poorly integrated communities and loss of public land for negligible gains in social housing. We cannot afford to make those mistakes again.

private garden area at Carlton housing estate redevelopment
Previous Victorian housing estate redevelopments have led to segregated areas of public and private housing.
Kate Shaw



Read more:
Social mix in housing? One size doesn’t fit all, as new projects show


Lack of a strategic plan

The program comes with a new government agency, Homes Victoria, and the promise of a ten-year policy and funding framework. This level of strategic leadership has been lacking in Victoria and will require bipartisan support. Strong partnerships with local councils will also be needed.

Good policy depends on many elements, including:

  • research
  • housing targets with geographical and population-group breakdowns
  • transparent decision-making
  • clearly identified funding streams and responsible agencies
  • shared definitions
  • monitoring and evaluation mechanisms
  • clear time frames
  • integration with other policy areas and levels of government.

These elements appear to still be a work in progress for the Big Housing Build. The risk is that this announcement will follow Australia’s pattern of “lumpy” funding and inconsistent policy on social and affordable housing.

Without long-term funding streams, providers find it hard to to scale up, make strategic decisions, invest in internal capacity and plan development pipelines. Without overarching strategy and monitoring, Victoria’s lacklustre history of social housing provision may continue.




Read more:
Ten lessons from cities that have risen to the affordable housing challenge


Reduced community engagement

Planning approvals for larger social housing developments will be streamlined. In many cases, the state will take over final decision-making from local government. This will reduce opportunities for community consultation and the state government will need to work hard to ensure high-quality design is integrated into developments.

Where to from here?

As COVID-19 has made clear, everyone needs a home and society benefits from caring for those in need. The speed with which governments moved to house rough sleepers, a seemingly intractable problem before COVID, shows homelessness and severe housing stress can be overcome.




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The need to house everyone has never been clearer. Here’s a 2-step strategy to get it done


The Big Housing Build is not perfect and will not solve Victoria’s huge housing challenges on its own. It must be the start of regular cycles of funding to sustain social housing in Victoria. It should also be tied to longitudinal evaluation of outputs and an aligned research agenda to shape best-practice outcomes.

And powers-that-be in Canberra, the list of partners in this program has a large federal-government-shaped gap. When are you going to come to the party?The Conversation

Katrina Raynor, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Hallmark Research Initiative for Affordable Housing, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Mould and damp health costs are about 3 times those of sugary drinks. We need a healthy housing agenda



Burdun Iliya/Shutterstock

Rebecca Bentley, University of Melbourne and Emma Baker

The World Health Organisation has always been interested in housing as one of the big “causes of the causes”, of the social determinants, of health. The WHO launched evidence-based guidelines for healthy housing policies in 2019.

Australia is behind the eight ball on healthy housing. Other governments, including in the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand, acknowledge housing as an important contributor to the burden of disease. These countries have major policy initiatives focused on this agenda.

In Australia, however, we do housing and we do health, but they sit in different portfolios of government and aren’t together in the (policy) room often enough. Housing should be embedded in our National Preventive Health Strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink how we approach health and protect our populations. It has amplified social and economic vulnerability. The pandemic has almost certainly brought housing and health together in our minds.

Housing – its ability to provide shelter, its quality, location, warmth – has proven to be a key factor in the pandemic’s “syndemic” nature. That is, as well as shaping exposure to the virus itself, housing contributes to the social patterning of chronic diseases that increase COVID-19 risks.

Graphic showing interactions of COVID-19 with social determinants of health and non-communicable diseases
Interactions of COVID-19, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the social determinants of health.
Bambra et al, The COVID-19 pandemic and health inequalities (2020), Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health



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Housing and health are intertwined

Housing affects health in many ways. At the broad scale, housing disadvantage, unaffordable housing and housing of poor quality have been the focus of much recent Australian research. More specific housing drivers of health, such as household mould, injury, overcrowding, noise, cold and damp, have received renewed global attention.

However, capturing the combined health effect of housing is difficult. It’s hard to measure and has many components, and everyone has slightly different housing (and health).

But epidemiologists can provide us with a useful way of estimating the “burden” of various risk factors for population health. Housing risk factors have rarely been examined in Australia, but our estimates flag that the increasing health burden of housing demands attention.

For example, we estimate the health cost (measured in disability-adjusted life years) due to respiratory and cardiovascular disease that can be attributed to mouldy or damp housing is about three times the cost attributable to sugary drinks in Australia. Damp, cold and mouldy housing generates a substantial health burden and could be an easy target for public health prevention strategies. These housing conditions stand alongside many of the classic risk factors such as diet, smoking and obesity.

This estimate of health burden does not even factor in the important role housing plays in mental health. Housing affordability, security, suitability, location and condition are all associated with good mental health.

With rates of eviction likely to increase once moratoriums are lifted across the country, the housing-related mental health burden will almost certainly increase too.

We have previously estimated more than 2.5 million Australians are living in unhealthy housing — and that this number is rising.

The Australian Index of Unhealthy Housing – a composite measure of housing affordability, security, quality, location and accessibility – shows increases in unhealthy housing from 2000 to 2016.
Adapted from Baker et al (2019), An Australian geography of unhealthy housing



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What housing actions will improve health?

Simple housing-focused interventions could reduce the sizeable health burden from housing-related problems. As the WHO advocates, this requires policy and research that have an eye on both health and housing.

In practical terms, a preventive health strategy would include:

  • minimum rental housing standards to protect occupants’ health, which would target structural factors related to damp and mould, ventilation, heating and cooling, injury hazards, maintenance and repair

  • good-quality public housing that is easy to access as a foundation for healthy lives

  • help with fixing problems, such as mould removal and servicing of heaters, for people in poor-quality housing

  • insulation to maintain indoor temperature and increase energy efficiency.

Sick woman sitting on couch with a blanket over her
Poorly insulated housing is a serious health issue in Australia.
fizkes/Shutterstock



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Chilly house? Mouldy rooms? Here’s how to improve low-income renters’ access to decent housing


COVID adds urgency to rethinking our approach

COVID has caused us to rapidly rethink public housing, nursing homes, share houses and small inner-city apartments. When choosing our current housing, few of us would have factored in the potential for isolation and loneliness, the need for separate working and study spaces, access to private green space, or the infection risk of shared lifts.

The experience of many Australians during the pandemic has almost certainly changed our view of the housing that we need, and what we consider to be healthy. It is time to harness this knowledge and learn from our COVID-19 experience.




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How might COVID-19 change what Australians want from their homes?


Many have lamented the missed opportunity to create economic stimulus in our nation’s COVID recovery plan by building more social housing. But social housing is only a small part of the story. Australia needs to embrace a future where good population health goes hand in hand with good-quality, affordable and secure housing – where health is at the forefront of housing policy and public preventive health strategies harness housing.

7 key questions for a healthy housing agenda

The time is right for Australia to put housing and health in the same room and develop a national healthy housing agenda. Our National Health and Medical Research Council-funded Centre for Research Excellence in Healthy Housing aims to lead and shape this agenda. In doing so, we pose the following questions to our governments, research community and stakeholders:

  1. How can we respond in a nationally co-ordinated way to the emerging challenges that COVID-19 presents to healthy housing?

  2. Who should be included in the conversation and in developing the agenda – and what is the role of the Commonwealth Department of Health?

  3. Where does responsibility for providing healthy housing lie?

  4. What is the “minimum standard” of housing that we want to provide to all Australians?

  5. What are the healthy housing priorities? Warmth? Mould? Tenure security? Affordability?

  6. What groups in our society demand immediate attention? Children? Renters? People with disabilities?

  7. How will an Australian healthy housing agenda fit within a national housing agenda (when one exists)?




Read more:
Coronavirus lays bare 5 big housing system flaws to be fixed


The Conversation


Rebecca Bentley, Professor of Social Epidemiology, Principal Research Fellow in Social Epidemiology and Director of the Centre for Research Excellence in Healthy Housing in Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne and Emma Baker, Professor of Housing Research and Deputy Director of the NHMRC Centre of Excellence for Healthy Housing

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COVID spurred action on rough sleepers but greater homelessness challenges lie ahead


Hal Pawson, UNSW and Cameron Parsell, The University of Queensland

COVID-19 triggered multimillion-dollar commitments by state governments to tackle homelessness. Our research for the Australian Homelessness Monitor 2020, released today, reveals at least 33,000 rough sleepers and other homeless people have been booked into hotels and other temporary accommodation during the crisis.

Beyond this, several states have pledged funds and support to move beyond this short-term fix and ensure former rough sleepers find long-term housing.




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If we realised the true cost of homelessness, we’d fix it overnight


These are commendable actions in a long-neglected policy area, even if largely inspired by public health anxieties rather than concern for the welfare of people without a home.

Still, our research also shows the burst of activity over the past six months builds on several years of stepped-up state government action to tackle street homelessness across Australia.

What prompted governments to act?

Three factors seem to have contributed:

  1. around 2016, rising inner-city rough sleeping apparently crossed a threshold of political embarrassment

  2. people experiencing homelessness challenged official complacency with direct action, including protest camps in Sydney’s Martin Place and outside Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station during the 2017 Australian Open tennis tournament

  3. a new level of activism, often inspired by developments overseas, led to initiatives such as the Everybody’s Home campaign, the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness, the Constellation Project and Adelaide Zero.




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In response, several state governments boosted efforts to reduce street homelessness. Measures included expanded outreach services and offers of housing assistance, increased spending on rental subsidies and personal support for former rough sleepers, and leasing of private rental properties as temporary social housing.

Some states even set specific targets to reduce homelessness. New South Wales, for example, pledged to cut rough sleeping on Sydney’s streets by a quarter between 2017 and 2020. Statewide, the aim is to halve street homelessness between 2019 and 2025.

Such targets are a welcome sign of ambition. They could even spur other states and territories to make similar commitments.

Rough sleepers are just the visibly homeless

As our report explains, though, these aspirations raise tricky issues of definition and measurement. And they focus narrowly on rough sleeping. Though highly visible, it’s just one of the forms of homelessness.

This approach risks airbrushing the wider, and much larger, homelessness problem. Of the 116,000 homeless people counted by the 2016 Census some 8,000 were rough sleepers. Homelessness also includes experiences such as as couch surfing and living in badly overcrowded dwellings and short-term, unsafe accommodation like rooming houses.




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Informal and illegal housing on the rise as our cities fail to offer affordable places to live


Crucially, homelessness cannot be overcome purely through better management and co-ordination of existing services. Nor can it be seriously tackled by state/territory governments without federal support.

New wave of homelessness is looming

The most immediate concern now is an imminent surge in homelessness. This is likely in coming months as a result of JobKeeper payments and JobSeeker Coronavirus Supplements being scaled back and bans on evictions lifted.

These protections staved off a new, recession-induced, homelessness crisis through the winter months. But, since mid-year, rough sleeper numbers have been on the rise once again in cities including Adelaide and Sydney. This is almost certainly a problem deferred, rather than a problem avoided.

We know, for example, that many tenants who lost incomes and sought reduced rent have only been granted deferrals. They are building up big arrears.




Read more:
Cutting JobSeeker payments will cause crippling rental stress in our cities


Rough sleeper packing up in Melbourne laneway
Sleeping rough is on the rise again in Australian cities.
Indigo Skies Photography/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

For their part, many landlords have lost rental income – by negotiation or otherwise. They represent about one-third of the more than 400,000 mortgage accounts on which banks have agreed to defer payments.

The extent of any surge in homelessness will depend on the public health situation, the timing and vitality of post-pandemic economic recovery, and on how quickly eviction bans and income-support measures are withdrawn. However, if unemployment hits 10% as predicted, homelessness could rise by 21% according to one projection for NSW.

For state governments, housing the mid-2020 rough-sleeper cohort has been enough of a challenge on its own. Even with stepped-up assistance programs, the states lack the capacity to cope with a surge of households newly evicted from private rental housing.

The main problem is a lack of homes at rents that low-income tenants can afford. A large part of the reason is decades of official inaction that effectively halved Australia’s supply of social housing since the 1990s. On top of that, the shortfall of private rental properties affordable for low-income tenants grew by 54% in the decade to 2016, as detailed in our report.

What needs to be done?

Lessons from Australia’s success in tackling street homelessness during the pandemic must be integrated with ongoing services. We have to reduce reliance on band-aid interventions that are costly and, at best, only lessen the harm. Homelessness is bad for health and for our society at all times, not just during pandemics.

Governments at all levels must recognise that the growing homelessness problem of the past two decades calls for a comprehensive housing policy rethink.




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Australia’s housing system needs a big shake-up: here’s how we can crack this


Yes, governments have partnered with community organisations to get people off the streets during the pandemic, which is something to celebrate. But these successes do not resolve the underlying structural problems.

The federal government has a critical role to play in both policy and funding. It must be far more active in owning and tackling the issue. Essential first steps are to permanently boost JobSeeker payments and the rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance. And the government should properly index these payments, as it does the Aged Pension.

Beyond this, the Commonwealth must use its greater budget capacity –
more than the combined resources of the states and territories – to invest in building new social housing at scale. For almost the entire period since 1996 we’ve been building only 2,000-3,000 social housing units per year. Just to keep pace with a growing population, that needs to be 15,000 a year. It’s essential not just as a stimulus for post-pandemic recovery as proposed, but as a routine national program long into the future.

Such action should be part of a comprehensive national housing strategy to design and phase-in the wide-ranging reforms of taxes and regulations needed to rebalance Australia’s housing system and tackle homelessness at its source.


The authors are very grateful to Peter Mares for his input into this article.The Conversation

Hal Pawson, Professor of Housing Research and Policy, and Associate Director, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW and Cameron Parsell, Associate Professor, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COVID impacts demand a change of plan: funding a shift from commuting to living locally



Conventional transport infrastructure planning has been based on wholesale commuting to and from the city centre.
Taras Vyshnya/Shutterstock

Benjamin Kaufman, Griffith University

Long-term planning has delivered mass transit systems to cater for high-patronage, hub-and-spoke transport systems. Unfortunately, this has left many city residents without basic access to public transport services. And we could never have planned for the impacts of COVID-19.

Our previous plans were based on the best available data at the time. Today, these plans must be critically reviewed using new data that properly represent the world and our transport needs as they are now.




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If more of us work from home after coronavirus we’ll need to rethink city planning


Important facts to keep in mind

1: Fewer people commute to work.

The work-from-home transition is well under way. Our current transport networks (except for roads, which have rebounded to traffic equal to or above pre-pandemic levels in some cities) are operating far below previous levels, even allowing for social distancing. This may not be the best time to break ground on major infrastructure projects planned under previous assumptions of population and demand growth.




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2: Disadvantaged populations lack access to opportunities.

Public transport is key to enabling everyone in a population to be a productive member of society. Many disadvantaged groups cannot drive or afford car ownership. However, they also lack access to public transport, particularly in the outer suburbs.

Unfortunately, coronavirus impacts will hit the disadvantaged the hardest. If we want everyone to be able to participate in the economic recovery, we need to promote basic levels of access regardless of an individual’s circumstance.




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Why coronavirus will deepen the inequality of our suburbs


3: Population growth will not meet projections.

Migration bans will greatly reduce short-term growth. Current projections show a population up to 4% smaller in 2040 than it would have been in a non-COVID world. This will further decrease demand for urban transit services as well as demand across many sectors of our society. These trends are important because much of our planning is based around these population growth metrics.




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However, our suburbs still lack basic public transport services. If we want to increase patronage, we need to bring services to more people by improving coverage of our sprawling, low-density cities.

Over 80% of the population of our biggest cities live in the outer and middle suburbs, yet this massive majority have limited to no basic public transport service. Across our five largest cities, Infrastructure Australia reports, “public transport disadvantage in outer suburbs is significant”.

Populations living in inner, middle and outer suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide
Estimated resident population by suburban classification, as count and proportion of city population.
Infrastructure Australia: Outer Urban Public Transport: Improving accessibility in lower-density areas

Households’ access to jobs and services gets much worse with increasing distance from the city centre. Development of suburban and regional mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) offerings could promote better access in these “harder to serve” areas.




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For Mobility as a Service (MaaS) to solve our transport woes, some things need to change


Moving the country forward

Job creation will be an important aspect of economic recovery. Yet too often we look to large construction projects as the answer. There is plenty of other job-creating work to be done in our communities.

We could, for example, increase the miserly funding for our piecemeal walking and cycling networks.

We could also expand on-demand services to suburban and rural residents who lack basic public transport access. On-demand transit does not follow fixed routes or timetables. Riders book a trip for a cost similar to a bus fare.

Passenger waiting to board a Bridj on-demand bus service.
Bridj is one of the operators that is expanding on-demand services in Sydney and other cities.
Bridj Transit Systems/Facebook



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These options will encourage local spending to support small businesses. These are an important piece of our social fabric and improve livability in our communities.

We need to look locally

A focus on localised investment in the many neglected communities across the country will deliver major benefits. Money already committed to large projects that are under way represents sunk costs that may be too deep to renegotiate. However, future plans using public funds must be re-examined.

Investments should target disadvantaged groups and broaden access to transport networks, encouraging new potential users. For many, assistance in gaining access to the necessities of life will be invaluable during the coming economic recovery. Guaranteed access to groceries, medical services, work opportunities and recreational activities must not be reserved for the elite.

We need better localised public transport and we need it for the majority of citizens, not just those who live in the inner suburbs of our capital cities. Most regional populations lack even rudimentary public transport coverage at reasonable frequency.

Increasing services in these areas will create valuable jobs that will stick around, unlike large one-off construction projects. The money will stay local, going into the pockets of operators who live and work in their own community.

While our long-term planning is not to blame for our current situation, we need to develop for the future, not the past. The financial costs of building and maintaining our current infrastructure are not going away. However, we can no longer refuse to invest in many of our underserved communities.

It is time to ensure everyone, regardless of their income or where they grow up, has the basic services they need to be a productive member of society.The Conversation

Benjamin Kaufman, PhD Candidate, Cities Research Institute, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Social housing was one hell of a missed budget opportunity, but there’s time



Yuttana Contributor Studio/Shutterstock

Hal Pawson, UNSW

Tonight Labor will deliver its alternative budget and promise that if it was in government it would be investing A$500 million in fast-tracking repairs to social housing, and urging state governments to match it dollar for dollar.

The federal budget itself, delivered on Tuesday, offered nothing extra for social housing, even though when polled by The Conversation and the Economic Society of Australia more of Australia’s leading economists wanted money spent on social housing than any other stimulus measure.

They are right to place it above investment allowances, wage subsidies and tax cuts as a sure-fire way to boost economic activity and employment.



Conversation Economic Society of Australia survey, September 2020

Unlike those other measures, it has a track record.

The Rudd government’s social housing initiative, introduced as part of the package that staved off recession during the global financial crisis, delivered 20,000 new units on time and on budget while creating 14,000 well-paying jobs.

It was the only Commonwealth public housing or community housing initiative of any size since the Howard government effectively ended routine public home building in 1996.

Pre-tested, pre-prepared

On a per capital basis, social housing supply has halved since then.

At the same time, private rental housing has moved upmarket, making it even harder for low-income Australians to find a suitable and affordable home.

The Community Housing Industry Association put forward a $7.7 billion Social Housing Acceleration and Renovation Program (SHARP) that would have delivered an extra 30,000 homes and renovated thousands more over four years.

Calculations by SGS Economics and Planning in June suggested it would have supported between 15,500 and 18,000 full-time equivalent jobs in each of those years.




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Why, in the face of this analysis, did Treasurer Josh Frydenberg turn the option down?

It’s hard to say, but the omission of social housing is consistent with the budget’s lukewarm attitude towards infrastructure investment more broadly.

Adding up everything the government is planning to spend on infrastructure over the next four years, the budget comes up with a total of $6.7 billion, which is rather small beer compared with the four-year spending plan before the crisis, which was $4.5 billion.

Lukewarm on infrastructure generally

It’s also small when compared to the business tax and other incentives, which amount to $26.7 billion.

Kick-starting the recovery via social housing or other infrastructure would have been out of kilter with a strategy focused on creating “private sector-led growth”.

The strategy, spelled out formally in the budget papers, is to, wherever possible, support markets rather than act directly.

It’s thinking that allows the government to distinguish itself from the Rudd response to the global financial crisis in 2008.




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But – unlike direct action, such as through social housing investment – the favoured approach relies heavily on assumptions about how market players (firms and consumers) react to incentives.

Those reactions might help bring about the post-pandemic snapback the most optimistic forecasts envisage.

There’s time

If not, there’s an opportunity to try again, even reluctantly. SHARP is ready and pre-tested.

There’ll be an opportunity in the mid-year budget update, due in December (in two months’ time), and next year’s budget (due in seven months).

Regardless, resumption of a routine national social home-building program is seriously overdue.

Australia’s housing system has become increasingly unbalanced – not just in the past six months, but over the past 20 years and more.

The crisis provides an opportunity to fix it.The Conversation

Hal Pawson, Professor of Housing Research and Policy, and Associate Director, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cutting JobSeeker payments will cause crippling rental stress in our cities



Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

Simone Casey, RMIT University and Liss Ralston, Swinburne University of Technology

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic caused businesses to shut down, state governments acted to avoid evictions by introducing moratoriums, and the federal government introduced the Coronavirus Supplement of A$550 on top of the fortnightly JobSeeker payment. These measures were intended to enable 1.6 million Australians to ride out the pandemic-related business shutdowns.

This welcome but temporary support is being withdrawn. The JobSeeker supplement was reduced to A$250 a fortnight from September 26. It will end in January 2021.

Timeline of Coronavirus Supplement.

Our modelling for Victoria shows the tapering down and withdrawal of the JobSeeker supplement will cause crippling rental stress for unemployed and underemployed private renters. In Melbourne, we have found the unemployed will face the same problem of rental stress as those on the former Newstart allowance experienced before the pandemic. (Rental stress is defined as a low-income household spending more than 30% of its income on housing costs.)




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Before COVID, private rentals in nearly all capital cities were already unaffordable for unemployed and low-income renters even in typical share households. What makes the scenario worse than before COVID are the sheer numbers affected. Many of these people may have had incomes prior to the shock that enabled them to maintain higher rents.

To illustrate the extent of the rental stress crisis we modelled rental affordability for the typical low-income household types in Victoria. The first chart shows the effects of the withdrawal of the supplement on rent affordability for two and three sharers and lone-parent families. The second chart later in this article shows the effects across a range of household types.

Impacts of Coronavirus Supplement withdrawal on three household types. (Median rents calculated from Real Estate Institute of Australia June 2020 data. Income calculated to include Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) and lone-parent income includes Parenting Payment Single with Family Tax Benefit.)

The modelling shows the interim rate (A$250) of the Coronavirus Supplement will help for a limited number of household types, particularly in the outer part of Melbourne and regional towns like Ballarat. However, it will not help many households in the inner region of Melbourne where rentals will remain unaffordable. This pattern is worrying because that’s where many of the jobs will become available once economic recovery is under way.




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Households with more than one adult receiving the supplement will be better off than lone-parent households. That is because all the adults in those households receive the supplement, and lone-parent households generally need to rent properties with more than one bedroom.

Impacts of Coronavirus Supplement withdrawal on major rental household types. (Median rents calculated from Real Estate Institute of Australia June 2020 data. Income calculated to include Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) and lone-parent income includes Parenting Payment Single with Family Tax Benefit.)

The scenario here plays out across Australia, but is particularly bad for Victorians because the extended lockdown has deferred recovery.

COVID impacts have hit low-income households hardest

Is is important to note that the COVID economic shock has hit low-income households particularly hard. Those in precarious work, young adults and women have had the biggest hits to their incomes and jobs.

Map of JobSeeker increases indicating pandemic impacts on employment across Melbourne.




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Coronavirus puts casual workers at risk of homelessness unless they get more support


In Melbourne increases in unemployment are concentrated in inner-city suburbs like Brunswick and St Kilda. This reflects the loss of jobs for young people in hospitality and retail.

Job losses have also occurred in working-class areas such as Brimbank, Melton and Hume. These losses reflect the impact of shutdowns in the processing, manufacturing and transport sectors.

It is predicted it will take some time for earnings to return to pre-COVID levels. This means renters who have not been able to get jobs will once again be in dire rental stress in most capital cities when the Coronavirus Supplement cuts out in January 2021.

What about household savings?

The Finder Consumer Sentiment Tracker shows household savings have temporarily increased. But it is difficult to assess how much reserve people on JobSeeker payment have been able to lay down, relative to the loss of normal earnings. Any optimism on this count needs to be tempered by the observation that the Coronavirus Supplement did not start until late April and early May — five to six weeks after the job losses started.

Our modelling shows that even during the temporary tapering down of the supplement until January 2021, there will be a rental crisis in cities like Melbourne. These findings can be extrapolated to other capital cities and the scenario will be worse in Sydney.

Cutting the JobSeeker supplement is risky policy because the labour market has not “snapped back”. People who depend on unemployment payments will now face the same problem of rental stress as those on NewStart experienced before the pandemic. But this stress will be more widespread than before. This underscores the need to develop policy that counters the risk of rental stress.




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If we realised the true cost of homelessness, we’d fix it overnight


The Conversation


Simone Casey, Research Associate, Future Social Service Institute, RMIT University and Liss Ralston, Adjunct associate, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.