Stephanie Anderson April 17, 2012
Canberra renters receiving government assistance are among the worst off in the country. Photo: Glen McCurtayne
Canberra renters receiving government assistance are among the worst off in the country as new figures show that the ACT has the highest percentage of housing stress among recipients of Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
Fifty-four per cent of Canberrans receiving some form of federal rent assistance are suffering housing stress, meaning they spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing costs.
The capital's percentages are higher than any other state or territory and are above the national rate of 41 per cent, according to statistics sourced from Senate Community Affairs Committee and issued by Australians for Affordable Housing today.
ACT Shelter executive officer Leigh Watson said it was obvious that Commonwealth Rent Assistance wasn't keeping people out of housing poverty in the capital.
She said Canberra needed a systematic reform of its private rental market, as well as interim measures such as its own rent assistance scheme.
A total of 9223 Canberrans receive some form of Commonwealth Rent Assistance, which Australians for Affordable Housing sorted in 11 categories, such as Newstart, Aged Pension and Austudy.
The ACT recorded housing stress levels above the national rate in 10 of the 11 categories.
The worst affected were students on Youth Allowance, which recorded 2041 of 2479 recipients - or 82 per cent - in housing stress.
ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr acknowledged that housing affordability was an issue for many Canberrans, but ruled out any form of subsidised rental assistance program.
''It is not our policy to replicate Commonwealth programs such as rent assistance,'' he said.
''However, the government has a targeted and effective strategy to improve housing affordability in the ACT.''
Mr Barr said that 55 of the 84 initiatives outlined in the ACT government's Affordable Housing Action Plan had been completed, with a further 26 either continuing or under way.
Australians for Affordable Housing spokeswoman Sarah Toohey acknowledged the higher rates of rent in the capital, but said it was the responsibility of the federal government to address housing stress among recipients of rental assistance.