Low-income earners at risk as rental affordability hits critical low

Karen Dellow
Karen Dellow

Rental affordability has hit an all-time low, making it exceedingly challenging for low-income earners or those reliant on benefits to secure housing, according to the latest analysis.

Drawing from data provided by realestate.com.au, the 2024 Anglicare Rental Affordability report analysed every property listed on the website on a specific day to gauge affordability and suitability for low-income households.

This report echoes findings from the inaugural PropTrack Rental Affordability report, indicating that most rental properties across Australia are beyond the financial reach of median to low-income earners.

Low-income earners are struggling to find rental properties in Australia. Image: Getty

The focus of the Anglicare report is on renters earning the minimum wage or receiving government benefits such as pensions, disability support, and the jobseeker allowance.

For most individuals with low incomes, rent should ideally not exceed 30% of their household budget to avoid financial strain and tough decisions.

Yet, among the 45,000 rental properties analysed, only 0.6% were affordable for a person earning a full-time minimum wage.

Rental affordability by household type nationally

  % of listings % year-on-year change
Single - Min Wage 0.6% -0.2%
Couple, two children - Min Wage 13.4% -2.4%
Single - Jobseeker 0.0% 0.0%
Couple, two children - Jobseeker 0.4% 0.2%
Single - Age Pension 0.2% -0.2%
Couple, no children - Age Pension 1.0% -0.1%
Single - Disability Pension 0.1% 0%
Single aged over 18 - Youth Allowance 0% 0%
Source: Anglicare. Realestate.com.au. Total rental listings = 45,115.

The situation marginally improved for couples on minimum wage with two children, affording 13.4% of properties thanks to dual incomes.

However, for those unable to work due to disability or reliant on an age pension, the outlook is dire.

For a single person on an age pension, only 89 (0.2%) suitable properties were found, disregarding their location.

Australians on a government pension have been priced out of the rental market. Image: Getty

Similarly, a single person on a disability pension could afford just 31 (0.1%) of the properties, making finding suitable rentals nearly impossible.

With rental vacancy rates already at historic lows, affordable vacant properties are exceedingly scarce for low-income renters.

As of March 2024, only 1.17% of rental properties were available on the market, giving renters with higher incomes a significant advantage.

Rental vacancy rates in March 2024

Greater Sydney 1.16%
Greater Melbourne 1.12%
Greater Brisbane 0.98%
Greater Adelaide 0.83%
Greater Perth 0.86%
Greater Hobart 1.22%
Greater Darwin 2.20%
Australian Capital Territory 1.37%
Rest of NSW 1.24%
Rest of NT 2.15%
Rest of Qld 1.07%
Rest of SA 1.05%
Rest of Tas. 1.19%
Rest of Vic. 1.15%
Rest of WA 1.47%
Source: PropTrack.

Certain regions of the country, such as Adelaide, Perth, and Brisbane, are experiencing even lower availability, with vacancy rates dipping below 1%.

Urgent action is needed to increase the supply of rental properties; however, merely increasing privately built properties may not alleviate the issue of providing affordable housing to those most in need.

Low-income renters and those on benefits cannot compete with higher earners when available properties are severely limited, increasing the risk of homelessness among these groups.

Thus, the most effective solution is to substantially expand public housing initiatives.

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