A Queensland man who can’t afford a rental property has been living in a leaky tent by the side of a road for months.
David has fallen on hard times since moving to Brisbane from regional Queensland, which was just yesterday found to be the least affordable area in the country in the latest National Shelter-SGS Economics and Planning Rental Affordability Index.
Socks hang on a tree he has strung a tarp to in a bid to stop rain from getting into the cramped one-man tent he's been calling home for two months.
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He wasn’t alone either, with other tents scattered along the clearing beside the motorway, which fills the area with noise from passing cars.
“I never thought it would ever happen, but it has,” David told 9News.
“It’s harder than living in a place but it is somewhere safe.”
David’s move has come at a time when affordability in Brisbane has also plummeted to a “historic low” over the past three years.
The median rental costs $553 a week, which the rental index found would take 28 per cent out of the average income in the area. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found rental costs had gone up 7.6 per cent in the past year, while the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) noted advertised rents had jumped 30 per cent since before the pandemic.
The vacancy rate slumped nationally to 1.02 per cent in October, hitting 0.87 per cent in Brisbane.
'Dire' costs and low availability pushing vulnerable Australians into homelessness
David’s tale isn’t unique. A single dad told of how he and his eight-year-old daughter were forced to move into a friend’s garage when an ill-timed rent rise and job loss left them homeless.
There are 3,000 Australians who will reach out to homeless services every hour, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s homelessness report.
Affordability has become worse in almost every Australian city (Hobart and Canberra not included), while the regions are also copping huge disparities between what people are earning and what they need to fork out for rent.
Low-income families are facing “dire” situations, with those on JobSeeker needing to spend more than 75 per cent of their income on a one-bedroom apartment in any capital.
Even in the most affordable regional area in the country - South Australia - a tenant on JobSeeker would need to spend 53 per cent of their wage on rent.
“More households in our cities and our regions are in rental stress and many areas are the most unaffordable they have ever been,” National Shelter CEO Emma Greenhalgh said.
Pensioners were among low-income earners identified as facing “untenable” costs, with even one-bedroom rental properties needing upward of 60 per cent of their income in Brisbane. That skyrockets to almost 90 per cent in Sydney.
“This downward spiral has now reached the point where very few affordable long-term rentals are on offer,” principal at SGS Economics & Planning Ellen Witte said.
The RBA has warned conditions in the rental market are unlikely to ease any time soon.
“Together with historically low vacancy rates and little sign that tight rental market conditions will ease in the near term, this is expected to keep rent inflation elevated for some time,” the RBA said in Friday’s statement on monetary policy.
The government said it was working with the states and territories to ensure Australians had affordable housing.
“At a federal level, our focus is on improving housing supply, because this is the best way to improve housing affordability for renters and buyers,” Housing Minister Julie Collins said.
“That’s why we’ve made significant announcements around boosting supply right across the country, from improving taxation arrangements for investments in build-to-rent accommodation to directly funding social rental homes.”
Australia's 10 least affordable post codes
Jindabyne, regional NSW. Rent of $1,150 is 70 per cent of income
Seaforth, Sydney, Rent of $1,450 is 65 per cent of income
City Beach, Perth, Rent of $1,200 is 59 per cent of income
Eumundi, regional Queensland. Rent of $1,050 is 58 per cent of income
Northbridge, Sydney. Rent of $1,175 is 54 per cent of income
Byron Bay, regional NSW. Rent of $880 is 54 per cent of income
Belrose, Sydney. Rent of $1,125 is 51 per cent of income
Frenchs Forest, Sydney. Rent of $1,100 is 50 per cent of income
Warriewood, Sydney. Rent of $1,100 is 50 per cent of income
Avalon/Bilgola, Sydney. Rent of $1,050 is 48 per cent of income
These calculations were made with the median weekly rent of an area, and that figure as a share of the average rental household income there.
If you're feeling overwhelmed and need help dealing with financial stress, you can contact free advice and counselling from the National Debt Helpline. You can call 1800 007 007 between 9.30am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday.