‘Very dire picture’: SA’s low-income rental pain revealed

All of South Australia is rated “severely” or “extremely” unaffordable for Jobseeker recipients looking to rent, with those living in Greater Adelaide spending just under three-quarters of their income on private rentals, a new report shows.

Dec 06, 2022, updated Dec 06, 2022
Photo: Pexels

Photo: Pexels

The latest Rental Affordability Index report – produced by SGS Economics & Planning, National Shelter, Beyond Bank, and Brotherhood St Laurence – shows rental properties are more unaffordable now than they were in 2019 for South Australians on JobSeeker.

It shows single JobSeeker recipients living in Greater Adelaide spend 71 per cent of their $21,320 annual income on rent, based on median prices.

Single pensioners meanwhile forgo 42 per cent of their income on median rentals in Greater Adelaide.

While Greater Adelaide rental prices became cheaper during the COVID-19 pandemic, the region’s “affordability index” dropped by six per cent this year.

For Jobseeker recipients, all metropolitan and regional areas of the state are now rated severely or extremely unaffordable – the highest possible ratings.

“If you’re a JobSeeker recipient there is nothing that is deemed affordable for you in the private rental market across the state,” Shelter SA executive director Dr Alice Clark said.

“Even taking it down to a $30,000 annual income, which is well above JobSeeker, there’s still nothing affordable.

“It’s a very dire picture for renters and affordability.” 

The rental affordability outlook across South Australia for households with an annual income of $30,000. Map: SGS Economics & Planning

The situation is different for the average South Australian rental household on a gross income of $84,047 each year.

The index shows Greater Adelaide is “marginally below the threshold of having acceptable rents”, with the average rental household spending 25 per cent of its total income on median rent.

Adelaide’s CBD improved in affordability, but most suburbs became more expensive for renters.

Suburbs which shifted from “moderately unaffordable” to “unaffordable” include Norwood, Myrtle Bank, Belair, Somerton Park and West Lakes.

The eastern suburbs of Beaumont and Burnside are now rated “severely unaffordable” for the average rental household, as is the Adelaide Hills town of Hahndorf.

Gawler and surrounding areas have become more expensive in recent years, but their rating still remains “acceptable”.

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The rental affordability outlook across South Australia for households with an annual income of $85,000. Map: SGS Economics & Planning

Rental prices in regional South Australia are “acceptable” for average rental households with an annual gross income of $73,501.

Renting in regional South Australia is cheaper than in country New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland.

Clark said that while the Rental Affordability Index provided useful data about rental prices, it didn’t show that South Australia’s rental vacancy rate remained “extraordinarily low” at one of the lowest points in a decade.

“The competition for the few rentals that do come to be available is extremely high,” she said.

“There are hundreds of people attending inspections and applying for properties and to be honest, there’s no real relief in sight.”

The state government is currently consulting the public on proposed changes to rental laws, which it says will improve protections for renters and ensure landlords can continue to manage properties effectively.

Up for consideration is longer fixed-term tenancy agreements, cheaper bond payments, a ban on “rental bidding” and better protections for renters with pets.

But Clark said the changes would not improve rental affordability and availability issues.

“What we’re hoping the modernisation might achieve is a little more security for renters,” she said.

“It’s fantastic that the government are doing this review to bring us into more modern legislation, but it’s really not going to assist when it comes to these problems that we’ve been talking about for a long time.”

Clark said increasing the supply of social housing and land release by state government were “critical” to improving rental affordability and availability.

“We need to future-proof the state as well and unless we get moving now, I can’t see how we’re going to be in a better position in the coming years,” she said.

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