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Housing stress in WA persists despite market softening – Report shows low income earners; regional areas still experiencing pressure –

Media release

Housing affordability has improved for Western Australian households, however many still remain vulnerable to housing stress and pressures, according to a new report by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC).

Keeping a Roof Over our Heads is the second housing affordability report and features findings from a new survey of over 4,000 households across Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.

Using the latest data available, the report offers the most recent findings on changes in housing stress levels over the last decade, as well as how these stresses vary across regional locations and household types.

Lead researcher and BCEC Deputy Director, Associate Professor Rachel Ong, said that while the proportion of households that regard their housing as ‘unaffordable’ fell from around 33 per cent to 19 per cent over the last two years, low income households, especially those in regional areas were still facing pressure.

“The typical mortgage cost burden for low income households remained persistent for regional WA over the last two years at around 34 per cent of disposable household income,” Associate Professor Ong said.

“Low income households in the private rental market are the most susceptible to housing cost pressures and are unlikely to be able to buy their own home any time soon.

“An individual minimum wage worker, has a real struggle to afford to enter the housing market by themselves.

“Currently, individuals living on a minimum wage cannot afford to rent a one bedroom unit in the Perth metropolitan area, despite targeting the lower end of the housing market.”

Despite a fall in housing costs burdens, residents of regional WA are more likely to view their housing as ‘unaffordable’ than those residing in regional areas of New South Wales or Queensland.

“A key factor related to housing affordability is the diversity of available housing options,” Professor Ong said.

“WA is one of the least diverse areas for housing stock options in Australia. Expanding the range of available housing both in terms of the type of dwelling and access options will help to improve housing affordability for everyone.”

The report also examines the degree to which social housing alleviates housing cost pressures for low income Western Australian households and sheds light on the complexities associated with homelessness.

Key findings of the report include:

  • The mortgage cost burden for low income households in Perth has decreased from 37 per cent to 30 per cent of household disposable income.
  • The median rental cost burden for low income households have persisted at 34 per cent in Perth but declined from 28 per cent to 25 per cent in regional WA.
  • Measures of severe housing stress have increased more for renters in WA than the rest of Australia.
  • One-third of single parents in WA regarded their housing as unaffordable.
  • Social housing remains an important component of delivering affordable housing to low income households.
  • WA’s regional centres are significantly more exposed to homelessness than metropolitan regions.
  • The Kimberley region had the highest rate of homelessness within WA, with a rate of almost 386 persons per 10,000 population.

Copies of the full report are available upon request or from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre website.