Insecure. Disruptive. Unaffordable. – The reality for many in WA’s private rental market

Two Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre reports released today found this is the reality for many people in Australia’s private rental market. Shelter WA contributed to a panel discussion at the launch of these two seminal reports.

The reports, The private rental sector in Australia: Public perceptions of quality and affordability and Housing security for WA’s older renters highlight serious issues around rental security and the shortage of quality, affordable rental accommodation for households most in need, with a suite of recommendations to make the private rental market a more safe, secure and viable housing option.

The Reports show that whilst the private rental market was traditionally seen as a stepping stone to home ownership, this is no longer the case, with private rentals becoming a long term housing option for many in our community.

“This is significant.” said Shelter WA CEO Ms Michelle Mackenzie. “With over a third of tenants paying more than 30% of their income on rent, for low income tenants this leads to long term, sustained housing stress. Limited access to affordable rental properties contributes to long term housing instability, poverty and homelessness,” said Michelle.

The Reports found that short term tenancy agreements and no grounds evictions are a contributing factor to instability.  

Continued disruption to rental housing has financial and broader well-being implications for renters. The Reports found that almost a third of renters were forced to leave their last property. “This could impact on children’s schooling, employment access, and connectedness to family and community.” said Ms Mackenzie. “A shift in thinking is needed. Rental properties are not just investment vehicles, they are people’s homes.”

In addition to security of tenure, the Reports found that discrimination in the private rental market is an issue, in particular for single parent households with children, for people on government benefits, or discrimination due to ethnicity or having pets.

The authors point out the need for systemic change in the private rental market, especially when it comes to affordability and access for people on low incomes and the implementation of safeguards for older renters.

“The WA Residential Tenancy Act is up for review in 2019, and this provides an opportunity for the WA community to address the issues raised in this report,” said Michelle.

Other recommendations in the Reports such as increasing rental subsidies and utilising Federal, State and local government policy levers to make institutional investment in affordable rental properties more attractive and increasing the quantity of affordable housing delivered by the community housing sector to assist those who may fall out of the private rental sector, should be explored,” said Michelle.

Ends

Media Contact – Michelle Mackenzie, CEO Shelter WA: 0419 931 819.