THE COAST’S lack of affordable rental accommodation is a key driver of household poverty and homelessness, and the situation is unlikely to improve until more housing is available for people on lower incomes.
This stark assessment by St Vincent de Paul Society’s North Coast executive officer Michael Timbrell comes at the start of Anti-Poverty Week, October 14-20, a time to reflect on some of the greatest challenges facing our area.
“On the North Coast, every Local Government Area (LGA) has a child poverty rate of about 20 per cent, with a total of more than 80,000 people experiencing poverty, and a further 38,500 being at risk of it,” Mr Timbrell said.
“Rental affordability is a chronic problem, leaving many people homeless or on the verge of homelessness, struggling to support their families. The recent Affordable Housing Income Gap report produced by Compass Housing Services showed that five of the six most unaffordable LGAs for rentals in regional NSW are in the North Coast.
“The least affordable area was Byron Shire where median rent was $590 per week. The weekly household income required to cover this rent without experiencing housing stress – defined as more than one-third of household income – was $1967, whereas actual median income was only $1218. This means 48 per cent of income is needed to cover the median rent.”
The other North Coast LGAs facing rental stress were:
Ballina ($450 pw median rent, $1500 pw required household income, $1022 median household income, 44% of income required to pay median rent)
Clarence Valley ($350 $1167, $907, 39%)
Tweed Shire ($430, $1433, $1182, 36%)
Coffs Harbour ($395, $1317, $1125, 35%), and;
Port Macquarie ($390, $1300, $1148, 34%).
“This means a high number of renters are facing housing insecurity, even homelessness, and rely on modest incomes or government support to cover basics such as food, school costs and high power bills,” Mr Timbrell said.
“St Vincent de Paul Society support centres see many people who are at risk of falling through the net. We do our best to help but rent takes a large slice of their budget, and without a secure home many households, often with young children, are extremely vulnerable.
“In this Anti-Poverty Week we join with like-minded organisations to advocate for concrete measures by government, including a national housing strategy, the urgent construction of more social and affordable housing, and tax reforms in the housing market.”