Essential workers priced out of rentals

A new report has found soaring rents are pricing essential workers out of their communities across Australia, with the average employee spending around two thirds of their income on housing. 

National housing campaign Everybody’s Home has released the ‘Priced Out’ report which compares data on rents against the award wages for 15 essential worker categories. 

The report finds that since March 2020, essential workers have lost an average of six hours from their weekly income to rent increases. That is an average of 37 days each year. 

Workers in aged care, child care, hospitality, postal, meat packing and freight are among the hardest hit spending most of their paychecks on rent. Those on the lowest awards would be left with around $20 a day after paying rent, based on the capital city average. 

The findings show the rising cost of rent means essential workers in single households are likely to be in serious financial stress, while those in coupled homes are probably financially dependent on their partner’s income. 

Everybody’s Home spokesperson Maiy Azize said: “Essential workers are the backbone of our communities, yet they are being priced out of them because of the unsustainable rises in rents. More and more essential workers are being pushed into serious rental stress.

“Virtually no region in Australia is affordable for our aged care workers, early childhood carers, cleaners, nurses and many other essential workers we rely on. 

“So many essential industries are facing workforce shortages with workers unable to afford to stay or move to parts of the country where these shortages are at their worst. 

“Our essential workers are used to dealing with crises’, but this is one that calls for serious action from the Federal Government. 

“Our tax system is rigged against renters, driving up the cost of rent for millions of Australians. And on top of that, Australia has a huge shortfall of social homes for people who can’t afford rent.

“The Federal Government must start building 25,000 social homes every year to end our shortfall. That will help workers in severe rental stress, and free up affordable rentals for everyone else. The government can fund those social homes by winding back handouts for investors and landlords.”

CFMEU National Secretary Zach Smith said: “This important report is hard evidence of exactly what we hear every day from our members. Housing costs are the razor-sharp point of a cost-of-living spear being driven into Australian workers.

“We’ve made it abundantly clear to the Federal Government that more ambition is needed on building social housing.

“The CFMEU won’t stop fighting on social housing. This is a top-line issue for our members.

“Australia is on the precipice of a social housing cliff with more and more workers teetering on the edge.

“We are at a pivotal moment. This is an incredible opportunity to address a massive crisis while also creating thousands of good jobs which help the country through commitments on training, safety and procurement.”

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