Australia’s least affordable capital city: Hobart

Tasmania’s peak body for housing and homelessness continues to be concerned at the escalating levels of unaffordable rents, highlighted by the latest Rental Affordability Index (RAI) produced by SGS Economics & Planning.

“Rental affordability in Tasmania has fallen to its lowest point since the Index began in 2015. Hobart now outstrips Sydney as the least affordable capital in Australia with Tasmanian incomes failing to keep pace with soaring rental prices. The combination of rising rent and low income growth has created unprecedented hardship for many people seeking to find an affordable home”, Shelter Tas Executive Officer, Pattie Chugg said.

The RAI reveals the reality of renting across Tasmania, as it is the only index of its kind that compares household incomes with the cost of renting. The index is showing an increasing trend of rental stress across the state, where the households on the lowest 40% of incomes pay 30% or more of their income in rent.

“Rents in Tasmania are now on par with the rest of Australia, however average Tasmanian households earn over $300 a week less than mainland households. With over 8,000 low income households already in housing stress, rental unaffordability is now rising up the income ladder, increasingly impacting average working families”, Ellen Witte, Partner at SGS Economics and Planning said.

“The results for Hobart are a real wake-up call. There has been a single-minded focus by State Government on population growth, but a complete lack of vision of where this growth needs to go and how all households are going to be accommodated. Renting households, many of them working families, are now paying the price”, Ms Witte said.

The situation in greater Hobart has deteriorated over the past year, with even the average household now on the brink of housing stress, paying 29% of their income on rent. The problem isn’t confined to Hobart, as the decline in affordability for average households is increasingly felt in both Launceston and regional towns in the South like New Norfolk, Geeveston, Huonville and Cygnet.

“While the impact on average households is concerning, it is masking the grim reality that those on low incomes are facing an increasing risk of homelessness across Tasmania”, Ms Chugg said.

In regional North and North West Tasmania, rental homes in Devonport and Burnie are moderately unaffordable for low income Tasmanians such as single pensioners and single working parents on benefits. Across Tasmania, low income earners are being forced out, further away from jobs with poor transport options, or into severely overcrowded dwellings, entrenching their disadvantage.

“In such a competitive and unaffordable rental market, many low income earners must make impossible choices between essentials such as food and heating or having a home. Single parent working families, young people and aged and disability pensioners are the worst affected, paying up to 80% of their income on rent”, Ms Chugg said.

The lack of affordable and safe housing is the biggest cause of homelessness, and we know that homelessness is increasing. On any given night 1,622 Tasmanians have no place to call home. We know that young people are disproportionately affected by homelessness, making up 52% of homelessness services’ clients. We can and must do better”, Ms Chugg said.

“A strong economy must be built upon foundation of secure homes for all Tasmanians, however the rental affordability crisis is pushing out vital workers like those in tourism and hospitality from areas where they are needed the most. We must also plan ahead for our housing needs with an integrated approach to overall population growth and State economic development”, Ms Witte said.

“There are multiple policy levers at the Government’s disposal to address the housing crisis and work together with the development sector, for instance in regard to build-to-rent. Fact is, increasingly more households rent for the long term, as they can no longer afford to purchase a home, so there is a need to ensure renting is a sustainable, secure and affordable living option”, Ms Witte said.

“Tasmania’s deepening shortage of affordable and social housing has serious implications for the Tasmanian community as a whole as it undermines our economy’s ability to attract and retain a skilled workforce, and directly impacts our community’s health, education and overall wellbeing”, Ms Witte said.

“The benefits of our growing economy must be shared. With the State budget just around the corner, Shelter Tasmania repeats its call for the $60m in stamp duty windfall from the booming property market to be invested in new social housing. Tasmania needs at least 150 new public an community housing dwellings each year, which is the best way to guarantee that housing will stay affordable in the long term”, Ms Chugg said.

Media release courtesy of ShelterTas