Housing stress puts renters 'on the brink of disaster'
The average Sydney renter is "on the brink of disaster", says Vinnies NSW CEO Jack de Groot, with many low-income households now paying up to 70% of their income on rent.
The latest Rental Affordability Index, issued today by National Shelter and SGS Economics and Planning, shows the average tenant now spends 29% of their income on rent.
An estimated 875,000 Australian households are experiencing housing stress, a figure de Groot says is unacceptable.
"Housing costs are arguably the single biggest driver of poverty and disadvantage in Australia," de Groot says, calling for the NSW government and state opposition to "prepare for bipartisan action to address this looming crisis ahead" of the NSW Budget.
"Vinnies wants to see at least 15% of new residential developments across the state set aside for affordable housing, where rent is kept below 30% of income," de Groot adds.
More than 16,000 Australians have signed a petition calling for a change to NSW planning laws.
"Australians need to recover our fundamental belief in the right to a home," he says.
"The dominant argument around housing affordability has been a financial one, with profiteering being the main driver when it comes to the Sydney rental market. A right to a home is superior to a right to invest."
In 2015-16, specialist homelessness agencies including Vinnies assisted 279,000 people across the nation, which equates to one in every 85 Australians. Almost one third sought help because they were experiencing housing stress.
"Housing stress impacts on the individual's ability to pay for other essentials such as food, energy and transport," de Groot says.
An energy price hike of up to 20% in July and Opal fare increases of up to 2.4% will compound housing stress for many Australians.
"Too many people are on the cusp of poverty," says de Groot.