South Australia’s regional rental market too expensive for low-income earners, study finds

Low-income people in the South Australian region are locked out of the rental market, according to a new report.

The study by homelessness agencies ac.care and Anglicare Australia analyzed the 55 properties available to rent on the Limestone Coast, Riverland and Murraylands over a weekend in March.

Ac.care chief executive Shane Maddocks said the results showed there was “no affordable rental accommodation” for some, including young people or single people.

“Even for people [with] two incomes with two children, two out of five of these properties would not be accessible to people on minimum income,” Maddocks said.

“If you’re single with a child, on JobSeeker payments, only three of those 55 properties were affordable.

Of 55 homes available, most were unaffordable for people on income support or with disabilities, single parents or young people. (Provided by: Nat Cook)

“If you were a couple with an old-age pension without children, only 11 of these properties, or 20%, were affordable.

Mr Maddocks said the highly competitive rental market meant some people were offering to pay rent up front or offering higher payments than advertised.

“[But] if you are on [a] low income, it’s just not possible for you,” he said.

“So you could come and take a look at a property [but] lots of other people are looking at the same property, and often the property is already rented out to people who have a significantly higher income before you even get there.

“We see people coming in who say, ‘Look, I can’t afford food, is there food available? [here] what we can get for our family?’

“[People are] having to make these impossible decisions about having a meal tonight, paying for your kids’ medicine, just to keep that roof over their heads.”

Outside a block of units.
The stock of available housing, like this block in Mount Gambier, has shrunk. (Provided by: Nat Cook)

Mr Maddocks said it was a “desperate” situation.

“People know they have to keep the house they’re in because it’s very difficult to find alternative accommodation right now in our area,” he said.

“Long term, the solutions are to build more properties, trying to introduce more rental properties to the market.

“A very quick and short-term solution is to increase the rent subsidies available to people who simply haven’t kept up with the explosion in the rental price market.”

Five of 32 vacant public housing tenable

Social Services Minister Nat Cook has confirmed Labor’s pre-election pledges to address housing issues.

The South African government has pledged $180 million to build 400 new homes, including 150 in regional areas, and conduct a “maintenance blitz” to bring untenable vacant properties back online.

Nat Cook SA Labor Social Services addresses the media.
Nat Cook says that of 32 vacant public houses in Mount Gambier, only five are up to scratch to have tenants.(ABC News)

“We expect work to start shortly after July 1. Planning is already underway to determine how to proceed and what the priorities are,” Ms Cook said.

“There are 32 vacant public accommodations in Mount Gambier, and only five of them can be immediately rented.

“Twenty-seven of them are unable to move residents there immediately.”

Ms Cook said it was particularly important to make more homes available before winter.

“It can be full kitchens and bathrooms that need to be redone, floors need to be replaced, roofs need to be replaced, some of them need fixing,” she said. .

“Some of these homes will have tens of thousands of dollar upgrades to bring them back online for use.”

‘Extremely Valuable’

The question was on the mind of Mount Gambier Councilor Sonya Mezinec.

“Any additional accommodation will be extremely valuable,” she said.

“There is real pressure on the rental market, the supply of rental properties has decreased.

A woman smiles at the camera with a sign behind her saying
Sonya Mezinec says she is in favor of any measure aimed at increasing the supply of social housing. (ABC South East SA: Grace Whiteside)

“If we have more social housing available, there will be fewer people competing in the private rental market, so that can only be positive.

“What it will also do is help people who are in desperate need of stable accommodation due to the particular circumstances they find themselves in.”

Julio V. Miller