The Poverty and Inequality Partnership between the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and UNSW Sydney have released a report, COVID-19: Rental Housing and Homelessness Impacts in Australia , that looks at the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on housing and homelessness in Australia during 2020 and 2021.
Key points highlighted by the research:
- Despite what was predicted, by far the most significant housing impact of the pandemic in Australia has been the house price boom that took off in late 2020 which was stimulated by government measures to boost private market demand and has compounded longstanding unaffordability, inequality and indebtedness;
- Less reported has been the rapid escalation in rent inflation from mid-2020, with annual national increases accelerating to over 8% by Q3 2021 – the fastest rate of increase for well over a decade, and far ahead of wage growth (at 1.7%); rents in regional Australia meanwhile surged by a remarkable 12.4% in the year to August 2021;
- Damaging impacts of recent trends on rental affordability in regional Australia are confirmed by detailed figures for non-metropolitan Victoria showing the proportion of tenancies affordable to low-income tenants declining from 41% to 33% in the year to Q2 2021;
- The key causes of recent regional rent inflation are likely due to new demand hitting markets where there is currently unusually low turnover in existing rental properties and new properties entering the rental sector – measured by new tenancy bonds lodged, private rental supply fell by 6% in 2020-21 in regional NSW and by 15% in regional Victoria;
- After the extraordinary rental policy responses of 2020 – eviction moratoriums, rent variation and rent relief schemes – similar actions in reaction to 2021 lockdowns were comparatively light. Whereas in 2020 all states and territories implemented eviction moratoriums, in 2021 only half imposed similar restrictions during Delta outbreaks – and notably the jurisdiction most affected, Victoria, enacted no second moratorium;
- The few published data indicate the incompleteness of the moratoriums: almost 3,000 South Australian tenancies were subject to eviction proceedings during the moratorium in 2020, and almost 4,600 tenancies were subject to termination proceedings in New South Wales in the first 10 weeks of its 2021 ‘stay at home’ lockdown;
- Most of the 2020 rent relief schemes were undersubscribed, reflecting the significance of federal income support programs, lack of engagement in rent negotiations and the weak delivery of relief through rebates on land tax (from which most landlords are already exempt); and
- In both the boarding house sector, and in international student support, there are highly knowledgeable workers engaged directly with persons in need; their capacity could be enhanced and leveraged to inform support strategies for each sector.