Housing affordability linked to income poverty: report

An updated report released by Curtain University this week has exposed alarming rates of severe income poverty across Australia and identified housing affordability as a critical issue. The report, which explored income poverty and its associated disadvantages and coincided with Anti-Poverty Week, found that more than one million Australians are living in severe poverty which they defined as having access to an income of less than 30-percent of the median. Based on that measure, the report found that around five percent of the population has access to approximately $340 per week before housing costs are factored in.

Breaking those figures down, according to the report a single person in severe poverty will have up to $133 to live on per week after housing costs are factored in, and for a couple with children that figure is just $261. The depths of poverty varied between states and territories, with housing costs being one of the biggest factors along with demographics. Other major factors included mental and long-term health issues, unemployment or unstable work arrangements and being single.

Professor Alan Duncan, researcher and director of the Bankwest Curtain Economics Centre (BCEC), noted that local housing markets and the availability of affordable housing to people on lower incomes had a significant bearing on income disadvantage and as a result, believes that affordable housing must be a priority in tackling poverty in Australia.

“Contrary to expectations, a significant proportion of households are in severe poverty despite replying on wages and salaries as their main source of income,” Professor Duncan said.

Unsurprisingly, the report also identified higher rates of poverty among renters – more than twice that of mortgage holders and three times the rate of owners who have no mortgage.

Alarmingly the report highlighted the way in which poverty was becoming entrenched for certain demographics. For example, single households (with or without children) were overrepresented in all areas of the report, and up to 22-percent of households in severe poverty had been poor for at least five years prior to the study taking place.

With housing poverty often a precursor to homelessness, the shortage of affordable rental housing is dire. To see the extend of housing stress in Victoria visit our previous blog post here

Falling Through the Cracks is the first in a new Focus on the States series to be released by the BCEC.