Paying rent sucks

January 22, 2011
More than 100,000 Australians are homeless on any given night, unable to find any affordable housing.

Paying rent sucks. That's nothing new. Its not really profound or controversial to say that — hardly a purely socialist slogan. All of us would like a bit more dosh, and to hand over hard earned cash just for a shitty flat isn’t something anyone enjoys.

But these days it’s much more than that — paying rent is hard, and getting harder.

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute says 1.2 million Australian households are under rental stress, which means they pay over 30% of income to meet their housing costs. Of that, more then 450,000 households spend more than 50% of their income to pay the rent.

If you're having to pay more than 50% of your income on rent, that's not money that you'd rather spend on beer, holidays or fancy shoes, but money you'd rather spend on food and bills.

The Adelaide Advertiser said the average rent in Adelaide has gone up 5% since this time last year. In the mid 1970s we (on average) spent 11% of our income on housing. That had increased to 15% by 2004.

Things are particularly bad for students. The maximum student allowance from Centrelink is $388.70 a fortnight.

The cheapest accommodation advertised on the Student Housing Australia website at the time of writing was $330 dollars a fortnight. The cheapest student housing available at Murdoch University in Western Australia during semester is $320.

Student housing is notoriously expensive and rates like this force students, particularly from less-than-wealthy backgrounds, to try to juggle a job as well as study just to keep their nose above water.

On top of all this, 100,000 Australians are homeless on any given night, unable to find any affordable housing.

This poverty and financial stress is the reality many Australians face today, but there is an alternative.

If our governments were serious about defending the poor, they could put limits on the amount that rent could be increased. Such laws already exist in places like New York and Los Angeles.

If you get welfare payments, how much the government gives you is tied to how much money you earn through working, and your assets. Why is it our income is tied to means, but not our expenses?

Why not legislate to make the amount of rent you pay depend on your ability to pay it? These laws exist in Cuba. We could wipe out rental stress over night if we legally limited the amount someone could be charged for rent to 20% of their income.

We could strengthen laws to give people better access to long term leases and make laws that require landlords keep rental properties at an acceptable standard (and make it easier to hold dodgy landlords to account).

We could create local council planning laws that mean any new developments must have disability access, and have at least 30% of accommodation set aside for low income residents.

While we're at it, we could force developers to make new buildings energy efficient and ensure new developments are close to public transport to further cut costs for renters (and reduce greenhouse gas emissions).

Housing is a basic human right that should not be reduced to a commodity available only at the whim of the market. We could invest in modern, good quality public housing that is not-for-profit, so that everyone has access to affordable housing.

The simple reality is that we live in a world of plenty — particularly here in Australia, one of the richest countries on earth.

We have the resources we need to build adequate housing and the skilled people to do it (who are often unemployed and looking for work anyway). The problem is created by our society.

There is nothing natural about poverty, but when the very basis of our economy is corporations trying to squeeze as much money out of people as they can, it’s inevitable that people will be forced below the poverty line.

Under capitalism, it makes sense to charge people rents they can barely afford, because that makes the most profit for landlords and real estate agents.

We can have the alternative, but not by just asking for it. The dole was won not because the government was benevolent, but because the unemployed got organised. Student allowance was won only when the students mobilised for it.

If the 1.2 million Australian households currently under rental stress get organised, then anything — even affordable rent — is possible.


even through left wing greens are nut jobs that was a well written article, however we are becoming like america a lot of it is just to the immigration problems with more immigrants were forced to work for less and as they dont mind sharing 20 to a 1bdrm unit our rents go up too, want to fix things? destroy the entire federal and state and local government greed filled institutions and start again like in egypt.
Let's not blame people who immigrate to Australia. We who were born in Australia are here due to luck, not choice. Let's share the prosperity that we enjoy (much of which is the result of exploiting Australia's Indigenous people and their natural resources, and the workers and natural resources of Third World countries, such as Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, East Timor, Indonesia and Chile). Australia steals East Timor's oil and gas, and Australian corporations own mines which plunder the mineral wealth of countries such as Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Indonesia and Chile, leaving the local people poor and suffering environmental devastation - e.g. rivers, and the wilderness lining those rivers, devastated by mining runoff pollution, meaning that local people can no longer get clean water to drink, nor can they fish for food, nor irrigate their farmland, nor get food from trees in their tribal areas. They either become environmental refugees or they die. Let's WELCOME people who are poor due to imperialist devastation of their economies by Australia, North America, Europe, Japan, etc., and let's END AUSTRALIA'S PLUNDER AND DESTRUCTION IN OTHER COUNTRIES.

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