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Two pictures of rental housing stress and vulnerability zero in on areas of need

Chris Martin and Laurence Troy write in The Conversation (18.5.17) about their research, partly funded by Queensland’s state government and Tenants Queensland, into rental affordability. The authors argue that almost nowhere in our capital cities, and increasingly in our regions, can low-income households afford the median rent.

‘Two new tools for measuring and visualising problems in our rental housing system are in the media this week. They have similar names – the Rental Affordability Index (RAI) and the Rental Vulnerability Index (RVI) – but use different methods to offer distinct but complementary perspectives. Together they reveal that almost nowhere in our capital cities can low-income households – and those on average incomes in Sydney – afford the median rent. Mapping rental vulnerability reveals households in regional areas are struggling too.

‘The RAI is a project of National Shelter, the peak housing NGO, and SGS Economics and Planning. It gives us a bird’s-eye view of rental housing costs over most of Australia. It does this by showing how affordable the median rent (the midpoint of all rents) is – or isn’t – relative to incomes in each postcode.

‘An alternative approach considers where and in what proportion renters are actually in stress. We might also consider a range of other factors that indicate where and in what proportion renters are vulnerable to problems in accessing and keeping decent, secure housing. This is the approach we’ve taken with the RVI.

‘… The takeaway from this? Housing problems are multidimensional and extend beyond the capital cities. Regional areas have a pressing need for services – such as tenants advice services – that give vulnerable households material assistance in dealing with housing problems.

‘But more than that, we need to build up the economic and social capital of these places – so that they offer greater opportunities for the vulnerable households who are concentrated there – just as we need policies to increase affordable housing opportunities in our cities.’

When ‘having it good’ leaves you with nothing: life as a renter on the poverty line

Kristin O’Connell comments in The Guardian (8.8.22) on the precarious nature of living in rental housing and the need for policy action to safeguard the livelihoods and shelter needs of renters in the sector.

‘It’s never been more obvious that those in the business of exploiting our need for shelter have no shame.

‘Everyone’s wellbeing is affected by their living environment, but as an autistic person with a few psychosocial disabilities thrown in, I’m more sensitive than most. My current home has given me more stability than I’ve ever had – more than two years without an extended period of total breakdown.

‘I’m on the public housing waiting list, just a few decades away from escaping the private rental market. In June I got a call from my real estate agent. On a month-to-month lease since August 2020, I feared my time was up.

‘The thought of leaving my home makes me sick. Moving house is stressful for anyone, but my executive function hindered by disability, the task is guaranteed to destabilise.’

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