ANGLICARE Victoria regional director Francis Lynch remains the optimist despite the consistent dearth of rental homes in Bendigo affordable for people living on a minimum wage or welfare benefits.

The social service agency has produced the rental affordability snapshot for nine years covering Australian capital cities and regional centres.

“There is a fair degree of consistency year to year about the level of unaffordability,” Mr Lynch said.

The consistent result is that only one in 10 properties in the greater Bendigo area are affordable for people relying on welfare payments, and anyone on Newstart will find no home they can afford to rent without spending more than 30 per cent of their income.

That can leave young people and families at risk in share houses or feeling emotional or physical strain from the stress of paying the rent each week.

But Mr Lynch also wants it to be remembered that Bendigo remains more affordable than Melbourne.

“One of the great things about this report, even though there are a lot of negatives and a lot of woe, is that the affordability in regional Australia is better than metropolitan Australia,” he said.

And this: “I think there are a lot of opportunities for people individually to do things but also in partnerships with other people around them or other parts of the system.”

How to make housing more affordable in Australia, and not leave the nation’s poorest out in the cold, is a vexed issue, Mr Lynch said.

“Because there are so many players,” he said, including three levels of governments, financial institutions, community housing services and private sector buyers and sellers.

“I think genuinely housing affordability is something that most people are worried about. The Australian dream is also about the hopes and dreams I have for my children, are they going to be able to afford to live where they want to live?

“There is just disagreement about how do we get there.”

Mr Lynch said there was little disagreement about the potential effects of housing stress.

“It means you start to have difficulty paying for your gas, your water and your electricity, paying for food, paying for the cost of sending your kids to school,” he said.

“That is creating a whole lot of stress in these households and the financial stress for those people becomes the mental health issues, or physical issues.

“I hesitate to talk about generalities but there are children who have grown in situations of financial hardship, they do start off on a bad footing and there will always be examples of children who have grown up in poverty who are very successful, who have made their way through.

“But for many of those children, it will be a hard start to a hard life and they will find it hard to get ahead.

“And what we know is that households that are under quite a lot of financial stress are more likely to be experiencing family violence.

“It is pretty clear, that link.”

Anglicare’s snapshot included 277 houses across greater Bendigo but at median weekly rent of $320, only half were affordable to people drawing a minimum wage and only nine per cent were fit for someone on welfare payments without using up more than 30 per cent of their income.

Mr Lynch said increasing Newstart and extended the age young people could stay in foster care from 18 years to 21 years were potential solutions.

– Sharon Kemp