Crippling housing costs mean many families are struggling to afford a basic standard of living, a report released this morning has found.
While the financial position of the average household has improved, low-income working families, single parent families, and the unemployed are struggling to make ends meet as rental, utilities and food costs skyrocket, according to the West Australian Council of Social Services report.
"The consequence of the lack of affordable rental properties is many families are forced to seek cheaper alternative housing out on the fringes," WACOSS CEO Irina Cattalini said.
Median rent in the Perth metro area jumped to $450 in the June quarter this year, compared to $380 in the same quarter last year, according to data from the Real Estate Institute of WA.
Housing costs represent 30 to 40 per cent of household expenditure for three model households used in the study.
The average working family in the study spent $18,669 on rent per year, $1600 more than the previous year, the report found.
Bethany Tracey, 28, said as a single mum and student who worked part time she was forced to spend more than half her income on rent, and it didn't help that her power bill had doubled from this time last year.
"I'm going to be stuck in the rental trap for a long time because I can't afford to put any savings away to buy a house," she said.
There are many households just one accident or a couple of missed pay checks away from financial crisis, Ms Cattalini said.
"It is important people's income is adequate to support a basic quality of life, … and be able to provide a small amount that people can save as a buffer for unexpected and occasional costs, like vehicle repairs or illness," she said.
Dramatic rises in utility costs were also taking their toll, Ms Catallini said.
"When a household's income falls $30 a week short, any increase in utility costs hurt," she said.
Labor's cost of living shadow minister Ben Wyatt said utilities bill hikes under the Barnett government were one of the biggest impacts on the family budget.
Energy minister Peter Collier defended the 62 per cent over four years cost hike in electricity prices since the state Liberal government took power in 2008.
"The reality is that if we had seen small increases in electricity prices under each of the eight years of Labor, the increases required under this state government, and ultimately the pain on West Australian households would have been far less," he said.
St Vincent De Paul Society spokeswoman Lucinda Ardagh said increases in rental and utilities costs had inevitably impacted those living on the knife edge of homelessness, and demand for their services had been consistently high over the last few years.