Low-income earners priced out of Warrnambool rental market

Warrnambool’s low-income earners are being priced out of the city’s private rental market, new figures show.

The latest Rental Affordability Index reveals even households with a combined income of $60,000 are struggling to find affordable homes.

The figures show a single person on Newstart would be spending 50 per cent of their income on a one-bedroom property. A single parent working part-time and receiving some benefits would be paying 38 per cent of their income on a two-bedroom house, and a single pensioner would be paying 33 per cent on a one-bedroom property.

The Rental Affordability Index defines “severely unaffordable” as spending 38-60 per cent of household income on rent. “Unaffordable” is rated as 30-38 per cent on rent and “moderately unaffordable” as 25-30 per cent.

Figures from Domain show the average cost of a three-bedroom rental property in Warrnambool is $359 per week. A two-bedroom property is $235 per week.

Council to Homeless Persons chief executive officer Jenny Smith said affordable affordable private rental in Warrnambool had “all but disappeared” for low income households. 

“Vulnerable people are living on the precipice, where they are spending so much on housing that they cannot afford other essentials, including food and medication,” she said.

The council is calling for more social housing to help fill the gap.

In its state budget submission, Ms Smith said the organisation was calling for 14,500 new social housing dwellings to be built across Victoria in the next five years.

Ms Smith said a good portion of those dwellings were required in the south-west, where many people were on the waiting list for social housing.

“There is now not a single neighbourhood in Victoria’s major regional towns, including Warrnambool, that is affordable for a single person on Centrelink, a single pensioner, or a single parent on a low part-time income,” she said.

“The good news is that the government can afford to invest in social housing, with tax revenue from stamp duty having nearly doubled over the past five years to $6.2 billion a year.”

St Vincent de Paul Glenelg Regional Council president Chris Pye said rental stress was often brought on when other things went wrong.

“What generally occurs is that something else has happened in a person’s life that leaves them with no money,” he said.

“There was an instance where a lady had her Centrelink payment cut off so had no money to pay the rent. That’s when St Vincent de Paul steps in – when it’s at crisis level.”

Mr Pye said St Vincent de Paul provided food vouchers and got in contact with Warrnambool and District Food Share to help those in need.

“That’s really important because that means a person that we assist has money for other things, like rent,” he said. “By helping them put food on the table we’re relieving some of that stress.”