SINGLE working parents in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie – a group that make up close to one fifth of their community – are increasingly unable to feed their children and pay bills because of a lack of affordable rental accommodation.
Research undertaken by Samaritans last month shows that of more than 1000 available rental properties in Newcastle and Lakes Macquarie, none are affordable or appropriate for a single working parent earning a minimum wage and raising two children.
Part of a statewide housing study by Anglicare Australia, the Samaritans’ research deemed affordability as being less than 30per cent of weekly income spent on rent, and appropriateness in terms of accessibility and number of bedrooms.
Samaritans research representative Julia Woods said 2011 Census figures showed single working parents represented 17.9per cent of the population in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, compared to a national figure of 15.9per cent.
Ms Wood said that of 699 rental properties available last month in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, only 58 were judged affordable and appropriate, and not to every social group.
‘‘Our emergency relief centres are no longer providing assistance to those just on benefits,’’ she said
Ms Wood said it was ‘‘simply not good enough’’ that single parents as a hardworking group in the community were still unable to find somewhere affordable to live.
‘‘Affordable housing comes down to how much weekly income people spend on rent, and the majority of the available rentals in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie area simply cost single working parents too much of their income – leaving too little for other expenses such as food, transport, medicine and the like,’’ Ms Woods said.
‘‘Samaritans too often sees people coming to us for emergency relief assistance because they’ve spent so much of their income on rent they can’t afford to put food on the table or pay their electricity bill.’’
Ms Woods said the Samaritans’ research also showed a gloomy outlook for most other groups in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie as well, including young people on youth allowance and people with a disability.
The welfare organisation and the Anglicare Australia network says measures to address the rental crisis could include housing stock that matches changing population needs; implementing a tax system that makes affordable housing more available; and government better working in partnership with the sector.
By ASHLEIGH GLEESON
CARDIFF woman Leanne Slow says it can be tough living week-to-week on a budget that mostly goes into rent and power bills.
A single mum, she balances part-time work with her parent duties and gets some assistance from Centrelink to make ends meet – just.
Ms Slow said the rent market was extremely tough and she found her home through an affordable housing program with Compass Housing.
But, the mother-of-two said that only subsidises her rent by $14 a week to $246.
‘‘My rent seems to be going up but what’s coming in seems to stay the same,’’ she said.
‘‘We live on the bare essentials; we look at things week-to-week.
‘‘It can be a bit like a rollercoaster.
‘‘You just bust your backside to put a roof over your kids’ heads.
‘‘I’d never be able to afford a home if I left this place, not on my own – rent is so expensive and then the cheaper ones have so many people going for them.’’