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Inner west less affordable than ever

There's a lack of affordable rental properties in Newtown. Photo supplied by Sylvie Ellsmore

A national rental affordablity report has found that less than one per cent of properties are affordable for people living on minimum wage in inner west Sydney. In the Marrickville local government area, this decreased to zero per cent.

Anglicare Australia conducted its annual Rental Affordability Snapshot last month, collecting data on rental properties from newspapers and real estate websites around the country.

Marrickville Greens councillor Sylvie Ellsmore is not surprised by the findings, and says that Sydney is facing an affordable housing crisis which is only getting worse.

“Half of the residents in our area are renters. Younger people in particular are renting for longer as they are unable to break into home ownership,” Cr Ellsmore said.

As a solution, she advocates limiting the rate at which rent is increasing by legislating stronger protection laws for renters’ rights.

“Australia is one of the only developed countries that allows rent increases linked to the ‘market’. We are also one of the only countries to allow landlords to evict tenants without reason, meaning unscrupulous landlords can evict renters who don’t agree to rent increases,” she explained.

“A simple step like limiting rent to the consumer price index would [halve] the rate of rent increases in the inner city in the last five years.”

Luckily, groups addressing the worsening rental market do exist. The Newtown Neighbourhood Centre (NNC) compiles a weekly list of affordable accommodation in the area and distributes it to over 60 other organisations.

NCC volunteer coordinator Ainsley Warner warned that most properties would become unaffordable to rent or buy for low income earners, like herself and her husband, in the future.

“It’s difficult to think we will be able afford anything in the inner west within a few years,” Ms Warner said. “It feels inevitable that Sydney is moving towards becoming an exclusive and unaffordable city to live in.”

Ms Warner also believes the long-term effects of Sydney’s affordable housing crisis are far-reaching, and will result in longer waiting lists for public housing, along with an increased need for boarding houses and a higher incidence of homelessness.

Cr Ellsmore expressed concern about rising rental stress, which refers to a situation where a person is required to spend more than a third of their income on rent.

“There [are] no properties that a student on Austudy could afford to rent which would not place them in rental stress,” she said.

UNSW queer officer Dylan Lloyd knows about rental stress all too well. The law student and Ashfield resident has to pay two thirds of his income on rent.

“Rental stress to me is that every week I have to be extremely conscious of every single purchase I make. It’s worrying about how much food I’ll be able to eat.”

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