Single parent households face discrimination

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SINGLE parents with children are having to do the most legwork when it comes to finding a house to rent in Australia, with more than a third reporting discrimination in their search, according to a new report by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC).

The private rental sector in Australia: Public perceptions of quality and affordability report also found low-income and older renters are experiences uncertainty over their leases and affordability pressures.

Report author, associate professor Steven Rowley from the School of Economics, Finance and Property at Curtin University, said the private rental sector appeared to be delivering quality and affordable housing for most renters, but was failing those on low incomes.

“The majority of private renters have a household income of $78,000 or less, and more than half of respondents said they were in housing stress because they were being forced into unaffordable accommodation due to a lack of suitable alternatives,” associate professor Rowley said.

Almost half of the 3,182 respondents rented the first property they applied for, while 18% needed to submit applications for four or more dwellings before finding a new place.

Those most likely to apply for more than one property were households containing children. Discrimination was highlighted as a factor by around 20%, but this rises to more than 36% for single parent households with children.

“Single parents often reported having to apply for multiple rental properties before being successful, and this same group was overwhelmingly the least likely to feel comfortable in their home once they found rental housing,” Rowley said.

More positive findings included dwelling quality generally perceived as “good”, the relationship between the landlord and tenant often “excellent” and strong feelings of home in the sector.

The report draws on data from the latest BCEC Housing Affordability Survey and Australian Census, and was released in conjunction with the Older renters in the Western Australian private rental sector: Strategies to enhance housing security for WA’s older renters report.

That found Australians face a lack of tenure security, despite 41% looking to sign long- term leases and another 23% open to a lease extension if it was available.

The reports suggested policy measures could be introduced in order to make private rentals more affordable and leases more secure, such as tax incentives for landlords.

“The delivery of a substantial supply of subsidised rental accommodation would ease the incidence of housing stress for low income earners. Such accommodation could be delivered through tax incentives and an appropriately structured build-to-rent sector,” Rowley said.

Build-to-rent, still in its infancy in Australia, would present an opportunity satiate the appetite for leases longer than one year. If available, 46% stated they would choose a lease term of more than 12 months, and 39% replied maybe, while only 14% stated no.

Last week, key property industry groups, including the Australian Property Institute, Property Council Victoria and the Australian Institute of Architects welcomed the Victorian government’s recent decision to fast track development applications for build-to-rent projects and establish an industry working group.

Less than 11% of respondents have a lease term of two years or longer, and 55% have a 12-month term, and 12% had a lease duration monthly or shorter. More than 30% of respondents were forced to leave their last property, with the primary reason for a forced leave being the owner selling, while 56% made a choice.

Two-thirds of renters have been in their current dwelling for no longer than three years, and despite the high proportion of long-term renters just 7% had been in their dwelling for 10 years or more.

Just under 30% have been in the private rental sector for more than 10 years, and another 31% have rented for between five and 10 years.

Half of renters working part-time wanted to work more hours but those hours were not available, and almost half of all renters are paying more than 30% of their income on rent. This figure spikes to 63% for respondents aged 55 and older.

Around 57% of those paying 30% of their income in rent said they were forced into the position. More than 90% of the 34% of respondents in receipt of Commonwealth Rent Assistance stated it was very or extremely important.

“A replacement for the scrapped National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), which delivers a supply of discounted rental accommodation, is essential,” Rowley said.

“The findings highlight the importance of Commonwealth Rent Assistance. Without the subsidy, affordability pressures would be even greater.

“Policy reform around incentives for landlords such as capital gains tax and negative gearing could be tied to landlords offering long-term leases at below market rents for those in the PRS that are the most vulnerable.”

Australian Property Journal