Friday, February 22, 2008

Rental Crisis Alarm Bells Were Ignored…

The National Housing Conference this week has heard that rising rents are forcing people to skip meals to make ends meet. The research has been undertaken by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute through surveys and interviews with both renters and new home buyers. Many new home buyers are finding themselves stretched, but the real crisis appears to be among renters.

According to the study, 26 percent of low income renters go without food so that they can pay the rent. 42 percent cannot afford to send their children on school excursions. 72 percent of all renters are constantly worried about their finances.

The federal housing minister, Tanya Plibersek, has also presented a report commissioned by the previous government which has been kept secret since its completion more than two years ago. That report showed that even then a rental crisis was already taking a grip, with a third of renters paying more than a third of their incomes on rent.

Renters and owners alike face the prospect of disaster in any economic downturn, which some commentators are seeing as increasingly likely. The conference has been told that any economic slowdown would see the decline in demand result in job losses feeding into a recessionary cycle which would also see house prices in many areas fall. In other words, we are standing at the edge of an economic precipice, and it will take a delicate balancing act not to fall.

The simple answer is that there is no simple answer. The warning signs began to emerge a long time ago, but nobody wanted to hear the alarm bells, especially the previous government which was busy telling us all how we had never been better off. Now it’s time to work out how we are going to pay the piper.

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