News: Rental housing policies trap children in poverty, so how low will we go?

Published in The Conversation, 22 December 2016

This year Australians have been shocked by evidence about the risks to children in some out-of-home care settings.

We also learned that women and children comprise a large proportion of Australia’s homeless population. What we know far less about is how some of Australia’s most vulnerable children fare in what our analysis shows is the fastest-growing part of our mainstream housing system: private rental.

In research released today (see the report here or a summary here), researchers at Swinburne University shed light on this question. The study is one of the first of its type in Australia to enumerate children and young people’s housing disadvantage.

With home ownership rates falling and social housing in short supply, the private rental sector now houses one in four households and one in three Australians. We calculate that, in 2013-14, this included 1,037,802 families with dependent children and young people. So, what kind of childhood does private rental – and the policy settings that shape it – provide?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Survey of Income and Housing and Census of Population and Housing are used to examine children and young people’s exposure to affordability stress, using a rent-to-income ratio. This shows the proportion of income (adjusted for family size) that lower-income families with dependent children spend on rent. The study focused on children in the very lowest-income families (lowest 20%) and next-lowest (second-lowest quintile).

So what did the study find?

The findings are bleak. In 2013-14, 46% of these low-income couple families and 67% of one-parent families with dependent children in private rental housing paid more than 30% of their income on rent – the point above which it is considered difficult to make ends meet.

Read the full story here

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