Study shows Gladstone unaffordable for lower income earners

AN ANGLICARE Central Queensland study has found that affordable rent continues to be out of reach to residents living on lower incomes in the region.

The 2013 Anglicare Australia Rental Affordability Snapshot highlights the desperate situation faced by people on low incomes with a very low number of affordable rental properties available in the region.

In its second year of participating in the national study, Anglicare Central Queensland analysed 1012 private housing rental advertisements on realestate.com.au in the communities of Rockhampton, Gladstone and Emerald on April 13.

It found that low income earners in the region suffered with limited options to secure affordable and appropriate housing.

Gladstone has the most expensive advertised rental properties in central Queensland with advertised rents substantially higher than advertised rental properties in metropolitan Brisbane with an average of $155 per week.

The cheapest median rents in central Queensland were in Rockhampton.

However median rents in Rockhampton rose by $17 per week for houses.

Rockhampton also experienced a slight decline in median rents for units and flats of $2 per week.

None of the 1012 rental properties advertised in Central Queensland were considered affordable to singles on Newstart, Austudy or Youth Allowance.

Central Queensland families are hard hit with only one percent of all advertised properties affordable to a couple with two dependent children on Newstart allowance.

Just 148, or 15 per cent of properties, were deemed affordable for a couple, both earning minimum wage and with two children.

Only a third of these were considered both appropriate and affordable for a dual minimum income couple with two children.

Anglicare Central Queensland CEO, Mrs Suzie Christensen said the Snapshot findings showed again the struggle experienced by low income families in central Queensland and household rental thresholds are not keeping pace with rent increases.

Mrs Christensen called on all levels of government to support programs that will increase the stock of social and affordable housing.

"For example, building more social housing, increasing availability of the National Rental Affordability Scheme and repurposing current social housing stock could help meet the needs of low income families and individuals in the central Queensland area," Mrs Christensen said.

"The Federal Government should consider increasing the Commonwealth Rent Assistance program for low income households as this would provide some relief to those accessing the private rental market in Central Queensland."

Mrs Christensen said while some areas of central Queensland have experienced the downturn brought about by cutbacks in the coal industry, the continued boom in the gas industry has ensured continued high rental costs for those that can least afford to live in the towns they call home.

"Low income renters simply cannot afford to live in Gladstone or Emerald where rents are significantly higher than median rents in metropolitan Brisbane," she said.

Comparing 2012 data to 2013 data for Rockhampton and Gladstone indicates that there has been a increase in the number of advertisements for both these communities, of particular note is a fivefold increase in advertisements for units in Gladstone.

Median house rental in Gladstone has declined by $50 per week to $600.

Meanwhile the median rent for units and flats in the same town rose by $100 per week to $550 per week.