QUEANBEYAN’S affordable housing market is worse than Canberra with fewer properties available and increased competition from outsiders coming into the region mistakenly looking for cheap rentals.
These findings come from Anglicare’s National Rental Affordability report released last week which pinpointed Queanbeyan as one of the worst affected towns.
Anglicare spokesman Jeremy Halcrow said apart from Queanbeyan there was no other major urban centre in Australia that was unable to supply any affordable housing for single parent families on a minimum wage income.
The Salvation Army’s Major Debbie Hindle said many people were using its service for financial help which it provided through accommodation arrears, supermarket vouchers or payment of utility bills. She said sometimes it had become a choice between rent or food particularly as some had been forced to stay at cabins at the local caravan park, which were expensive.
‘‘We’ve had 11 people come in four hours asking for help with accommodation,’’ she said. ‘‘I know the waiting queue for the housing department is long.’’
The report found that nearly all the one and two bedroom properties priced under $400 per week in the Canberra-Queanbeyan region were on the NSW side of the border. However with all households in the survey – bar a family of four relying on the minimum wage and family tax benefit – not able to afford properties above $220 per week without being in rental stress, Anglicare did not deem any of these properties affordable.
Mr Halcrow said while Canberra had the advantage of a lot of share housing type of accommodation that was not the case in Queanbeyan. ‘‘We could find just three properties in Queanbeyan-Karabar that were affordable and appropriate for a family of four relying on the minimum wage and family tax benefits,’’ Mr Halcrow said. ‘‘There were no properties for single adults or single parents with children with a minimum wage job.’’
Real estate director Ian McNamee said there were vacancies in all sections of Queanbeyan’s rental property but he admitted there had always been a problem at the bottom end of the market. ‘‘We do rent a number of affordable housing through different organisations to assist but there’s not a lot, there’s certainly a shortage,’’ he said. Mr McNamee, of Ian McNamee and Partners, estimated there were 20 or more enquiries for affordable housing each week. ‘‘The number [of enquiries] is increasing and the cheapest rental we have at the moment is a one bedroom unit for $850 a month, that’s $220 per week,’’ he said.
To make matters worse, there is added pressure on the market as people arrive from over the border or other country areas to seek work or accommodation under the impression there are cheap rentals. ‘‘Our research shows that the affordability of Queanbeyan’s private rental market has been deeply compromised by the shortage of appropriate properties in Canberra,’’ Mr Halcrow said. ‘‘Two years ago Queanbeyan was supplying Canberra’s affordable housing stock. That is no longer the case.’’
Mr Halcrow said high rental costs were eating into the family budget. ‘‘Given that families with minimum wage jobs will be in rental stress, the mind boggles how people living on benefits can survive in this city in private rental,’’ he said. ‘‘We know that in reality people are living in rental stress and going without necessities such as food. The lowest rent we could find in Queanbeyan was $210 per week for a one bedroom unit. Using this as a benchmark someone relying on Newstart would be left with as little as $95 to live on each week after rent.’’
All three parties agreed that more government assistance to provide affordable rental accommodation was needed to address the housing shortage.‘‘Anglicare believes that pathways must be available to help people move from government benefits and public housing into full-time employment and living independently,’’ Mr Halcrow said. ‘‘Such pathways do not realistically exist anywhere in the wider region. The housing affordability crisis is causing the perverse situation where accessing public housing rather than getting a job is the only way out of rental stress for many people.’'