Australians falling into poverty as rent chew up incomes: 2nd release of Rental Affordability Index

June 16 2016: The second release of Australia’s first ever Rental Affordability Index (RAI) reveals the lowest-income households in Australia are paying up to 85 per cent of their income on rent, while rental unaffordability is extending to professionals. 

The data has reinforced calls for policy reform to address rental and housing affordability. The Index has been created by National Shelter, Community Sector Banking and SGS Economics & Planning. It includes data from the September and December 2015 quarters as well as historical data dating back to 1996. Data was not available for Victoria. 

Under current market conditions, the RAI reveals low-income households typically need to pay 50 to 85 per cent of their income on rent. It is generally accepted that a household is in housing stress if it pays more than 30 per cent of its income on rent. 

Adrian Pisarski, Executive Officer of National Shelter, said the latest index highlights many rental households are falling into poverty and are being pushed to suburban fringes due to high rents. 

Read the full media release here.

See the full report here.

Explore the interactive maps here. 




Australia asked to #VoteHome to end the housing crisis by 2025

Australia is in the midst of a housing crisis, with house prices and rents rapidly increasing, and people paying so much for housing that they are forced into financial hardship. 

In the lead-up to the federal election, a national alliance of housing, homelessness and welfare peak bodies has formed to ensure housing affordability and homelessness are tier one election issues. 

The alliance – formed by Homelessness Australia (HA), National Shelter, the Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) – asks all Australians to stand up for change by signing the Vote Home petition calling for a national strategy to end the housing crisis by 2025. 

National Shelter Executive Officer Adrian Pisarski explained, “Housing costs are the single biggest expense in household budgets, and affordability keeps getting worse – we’re in a housing crisis. Developing a national plan to end the housing crisis is the most important issue for all parties in this election.”
Homelessness Australia Chair Jenny Smith added, “Every night more than 105,000 Australians are homeless; and 40 per cent of those are under 25. Unless we address the crisis of availability of affordable housing, we cannot solve this completely unacceptable problem.”

CHIA CEO Greg Withers explained, “An important driver of this crisis is a shortage of over 500,000 rental properties that are affordable and available to people on low incomes; and consequently 205,000 people on public and community housing waiting lists. We urgently need a national strategy to deliver the housing that people need."

“Current tax policy has fuelled Australian housing prices to record and unaffordable levels. Tax settings that encourage speculative investment and inflate house prices – like negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount – must be addressed in the national plan,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
By signing the Vote Home petition, Australians can ensure their politicians know that a fairer more equitable Australia, where access to a safe and affordable home is achievable for all, is important to them. 

To Vote Home, go to:


Budget Media Release: #Budget2016 ignores housing affordability

The first Turnbull/Morrison Budget has ignored the issue of housing affordability except to again rule out changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax and dream about the benefits of value capture on infrastructure.National Shelter Executive Officer Adrian Pisarski said "In a budget struck as a national economic plan there as no plan for housing”.

Housing is the major cost facing  every vulnerable household and this budget offers no relief.

"The budget continues to favour speculative investors over home owners."

“The failure to address this causal factor in house price inflation is a failure to support the home ownership aspirations of generations X,Y and millennials.

“The failure to address the tax treatment of housing locks people in the rental market adding demand and price pressure to rental affordability and adding to the one million households in housing stress.

“Housing is the major cost facing  every vulnerable household and this budget offers no relief”.

Mr Pisarski noted that the budget discusses replacing the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing with a new remote housing partnership but provides no forward estimate expenditure to ensure it is funded.

Additionally the budget provides:


  • No increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance to assist renters
  • No increase to public housing funding to provide more public housing
  • No new money for rental affordability incentives to leverage private investment to provide more stock for renters on moderate incomes.
  • No addition to homelessness responses.
  • No new financing option for affordable housing or response to the Senate inquiry into housing affordability or the reform of federation.


“The budget does introduce a compulsory rent deduction scheme for public housing tenants which we think will limit the finial flexibility of those affected, Mr Pisarski said. 


Media Alert: National Shelter Press Conference: Stop playing politics on housing 


When: 11am, Wednesday 16 March, 2016

Where: Senate Courtyard, Parliament House Canberra 

Who: Adrian Pisarski, National Shelter Executive Officer plus National Shelter office holders and members including Homelessness Australia. 

Key points:     

Housing policy peak National Shelter is challenging all federal Members of Parliament and Senators to be bold in the face of pressure from vested interests and commit to real tax reform and a fairer housing system.  

National Shelter members from across Australia have converged on Canberra to meet with MPs and Senators to urge them to put the wellbeing of ordinary families in their electorates first.  

“For the past few weeks we’ve all been subjected to a scare campaign of outlandish claims that reforming negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount will implode the Australian housing market,” said Adrian Pisarski, National Shelter Executive Officer.  

“What’s really scary is that our home ownership rate is already waning, rent prices are really hurting people, and more than 100,000 Australians are homeless on any given night.  

“Almost half of houses sold go to investors who, encouraged by multiple generous tax breaks, push up prices for everyone.  

“We have to ask ourselves if we’re willing to be a nation of renters. And if we’re willing to accept that death of the great Australian dream, what are we going to do about households paying crippling rents?  

Last year National Shelter, in partnership with Community Sector Banking and SGS Economics, launched Australia’s first comprehensive rental affordability index.  The Index showed that some families were forced to pay as much as 65% of their income to secure rental housing. 

“Governments can’t have it both ways. You can’t distort the market for the sake of investors, and leave tenants to carry the can. The rental market can be a brutal place to raise a family and we are locking generations out of ownership. 

“We want sensible reform with all party support to fix housing affordability. After all, we’re taking about nothing less than the homes in which we live our lives”.

Spokesperson for Homelessness Australia Joanna Siejka added “We need every politician in Australia to understand homelessness and help our services to end it. There is no reason Australia can’t solve this issue if we put our mind to it."  



Further comment: Adrian Pisarski  mob. 0417 975 270 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For Rental Affordability Index interactive maps:




Pre-Budget Submission 2016-17

Our pre-Budget submission builds on the recent work of National Shelter, ACOSS, other peak andmember bodies and draws on the extensive work of AHURI and other research to propose a set of revenue and expenditure measures which will begin transforming our national housing system to produce sufficient affordable, well located, fit for purpose housing, to meet our nation’s dramatic shortfall of affordable housing and insufficient responses to homelessness.

Download the submission here.

Rental Affordability Index for Australia 

National Shelter, Community Sector Bank and SGS Economics and Planning have partnered to launch Australia's first Rental Affordability Index.

The Index reveals the depth and extremity of housing stress faced by renters in the current market. Both low income and moderate income households suffer poverty due to high rental costs.

Housing stress occurs when households pay 30% or more on rent. Low income households are having to pay around 65% of income on rent to access a tenancy. This means that rents are extremely unaffordable. 

This first issue of the Index reveals evidence that low income households are in a dire situation, single income households are worst off and rent costs are now locking low and moderate income households out of inner cities. 

To read the media release click here.

To see the full report click here.

For more analysis from SGS Economics and Planning, who did the research, click here.

For interactive maps, click here

To check out some of the wonderful media coverage, click here.


What's new

Mini summit must table housing affordability

National Shelter media release 1 October 2015 

Peak body National Shelter calls on the mini summit to tackle housing affordability including putting reforms to negative gearing and capital gains tax exemptions, previously ruled out, back on the table. 

Executive Officer Adrian Pisarski said “If Prime Minister Turnbull’s mini summit is intent on addressing reform then changing tax settings to reduce house price inflation must be among the issues to be addressed.”

See the complete media release release here


Media release: Proposed new public housing rent models fail affordability test. 


Affordable housing peak National Shelter has today released a report damning reform options under consideration by the Federal Government.

Proposals to move public housing tenants to market rents supported by Commonwealth Rent Assistance would place public tenants in housing stress with insufficient disposable income after meeting massive rent increases.

According to Shelter’s Executive Officer Adrian Pisarski “Public housing is there to protect vulnerable tenants who need the affordability provided by low rents.”

Across Australia public housing rents are set as a proportion of income, typically 25% of mostly benefit payments, which make public housing far more affordable than private rental housing.

Public tenants do not receive Commonwealth Rent Assistance but tenants in private rental who are on benefits do.

“We accept there is an anomaly between public tenants and private renters on similar incomes, where private renters pay far more, but this is an argument to increase affordable housing supply not make all tenants equally poor.” Mr Pisarski added

While a reasonable case can be made for reforming rent policy on a number of grounds, none of the reform options currently on the table appear to be viable replacements for the current approach of basing rents on tenant income. Rent policy reform, if it is to be seriously attempted, requires a much more nuanced and thoughtful examination than it has received in policy processes to date.

The market has run away from social housing and neglect by successive governments has let it. To suggest that we should level the playing field between social housing tenants and low income tenants in the private market is like saying we should remove subsidised medicines and increase disease and distress.

An argument oft cited to change rent policy is that low public rents create a disincentive to work. A recent study by the Productivity Commission has found public tenants are no less likely to find or retain work than others when the characteristics of public tenants is taken into account.

The Shelter study finds that the current rent setting for most public tenants is required to provide affordability close to services and opportunities. Reform is required to ensure financial sustainability for the system but needs more careful consideration and flexibility.

The way to make social housing both fair and viable is to build more housing, utilise community housing organisations with private finance based on appropriate government incentives, not by slugging public tenants.

EndsThe full report is available from the National Shelter website here



National Shelter's submission to the Reform of the Federation Discussion Paper 

Australia faces a number of significant housing issues, including an unacceptable level of homelessness, high levels of housing stress amongst low income householdsand especially renters, and declining affordability of home purchase in major cities.

Click here to read the submission


Negative gearing will not help “ordinary” Australians

The Property Council of Australia (PCA) and the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) recently commissioned a report “Australian Housing Investment: Analysis of negative gearing and CGT discount for residential property”.  A PCA article cites the report to argue that negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts (CGT) for property investors are good for the country, countering recent criticism of these measures contributing to house price inflation.  PCA also advocates for the same measure as the correct approach to investment and savings tax treatments and points to a number of “myths” about negative gearing and CGT.  In this article, National Shelter challenges the PCA statements, encouraging readers to look at the bigger picture.

Recent public criticisms of negative gearing and CGT include claims that both measures are:

  • Too generous for high income earners;
  • Contributing to house price inflation by fueling demand without a commensurate supply strategy;
  • Not the most productive application of housing investment; and
  • Not adding to new builds because most investors purchase existing rather than new housing.

Click here to read the whole article


Renters left to suffer while we wait and wait for tax reform 

Peak housing group National Shelter says the budget failed the fairness test the government trumpeted and the Commonwealth must now lead a nationally coordinated effort to address the affordable housing crisis. 

While stimulus was provided to small business and child care and parental leave received attention, nothing was done to relieve the housing stress experienced by over 1 million Australian households.

National Shelter Executive Officer Adrian Pisarski said “Rents are the largest household cost faced by every struggling family, they have been rising rapidly, but renters got nothing from the budget.”

“If we are serious about reducing welfare costs we need to address the market failure not wait for market magic to fix the problem.”




Read more here




Senate Inquiry findings show urgent need for budget action on housing

Housing Policy Peak National Shelter has pointed to the findings of the Senate Economics Committee Inquiry into Housing Affordability as clear evidence of the need for urgent budget action. 

The Inquiry found that far too many Australian households live in housing stress, struggle to find adequate accommodation, pay too much and face homelessness as a consequence.

“The Government must respond to the Senate Inquiry by boosting social housing investment, signalling tax reform and reinvigorating the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS),” National Shelter Executive Officer Adrian Pisarski said.   

Click here to read more



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