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New data reveals need to increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance and social housing to protect older Australians from rent stress and homelessness


More Australians over 75 have been pushed into rent stress because Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of rent, reveals new data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare today.

Older Australians still in rent stress after receiving CRA increased from 40,562 to 45,199 households between 2019 and 2020, an increase of 11 per cent in a year.

Last year 487,884 households around the nation remained in rental stress, despite receiving CRA.

Council to Homeless Persons Acting CEO Kate Colvin says more vulnerable older Australians are being pushed to the brink of homelessness as the rising cost of rent consumes more and more of their incomes. CRA is indexed against the Consumer Price Index, which has been dwarfed by increases in rent.

“Everyone needs a home, and Commonwealth Rent Assistance is intended to make private rentals affordable,” Colvin says.

“But the high cost of rent in capital cities, and skyrocketing rents across regional Australia, mean older Australians on low incomes are being left behind.

“More than 480,000 Australian households are paying over 30% of their income on rent and having to make devastating choices between paying the rent, and buying food, or medicine or paying their winter heating bill.

“No Australian should be forced to choose between food and rent. The Federal Government needs to increase CRA to give low-income renters more help to meet the high and growing cost of rents.”

The AIHW data also reveals it is harder for people struggling in the rental market to access social housing, with the proportion of social housing households falling from 4.6% in 2014 to 4.2% in 2020.

“More social housing is needed to create options for people struggling to afford housing. We are calling on the Federal Government to invest more into social housing, alongside the states, so we reverse the decline in social housing,” Colvin says.

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