Apartment rent in Sydney and Melbourne beyond reach of many women

by | Oct 10, 2016 | property

This article was first published by  on the 4th Oct 2016 via theguardian.com | Image: Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP


Analysis shows those paying rent alone on the average weekly wage for women would be priced out of all but one inner Melbourne suburb and even outer Sydney.


Melbourne is becoming increasingly unaffordable for single women, with one bedroom apartments in 75% of suburbs beyond the reach of the average income earner, according to a recent analysis.


The analysis by the Council to Homeless Persons found that a single woman earning the average weekly wage of $882 (taken from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ seasonally adjusted average weekly earnings for Victoria in May 2016) would be priced out of all but 28 Melbourne suburbs, assuming they did not spend more than 30% of their weekly wage on rent to avoid rental stress.


That allowed for a weekly rent of $265, enough, according to average rent figures from March, for a one bedroom flat in the suburbs of Altona, Bayswater, Box Hill, Brighton East, Broadmeadows, Bundoora, Burwood, Cranbourne, Croyden, Dandenong, Endeavour Hills, Ferntree Gully, Footscray, West Footscray, Frankston, Tullamarine, Narre Warren, Spotswood, Noble Park, Oak Park, Springvale, St Albans, Sunbury, Sunshine, Werribee, Yarraville, and the Yarra Ranges.


With the exception of Footscray, all are more than 10km from the city centre.


The average weekly wage of Victorian men, on the same measure, was $1,306, allowing for weekly rental payments below rental stress levels of $390.


A similar analysis by Guardian Australia of rental affordability in Sydney found that a single woman earning $973, the average wage for women in New South Wales, could not even afford the average rent on a one bedroom property in an outer area like the Blue Mountains, Penrith, Campbelltown or Gosford, according to Housing NSW figures.


They would however be able to afford the average rent of the greater metropolitan area, which extends from Cessnock to Wollongong.


Men, on an average weekly wage in NSW of $1,420, would be able to afford middle-ring suburbs like Bankstown, Parramatta, and Manly.


Jenny Smith, the chief executive of Council to Homeless Persons and chair of national peak body Homelessness Australia, said the situation for many single women was untenable and left them vulnerable to homelessness in the event of a crisis, like losing their job or a high medical bill.


“When you look at your average single woman on an average wage, you can see it’s very, very difficult to rent anywhere reasonable,” Smith told Guardian Australia.


“If you do, you are essentially putting yourself into a poverty situation.”


Housing poverty occurs when people who fall in the bottom 40% of wage earners put more than 30% of their weekly take-home pay into housing, which reduces their capacity to save money and thus their financial resilience.


Smith said that while many single people on lower incomes lived in share houses in order to be able to afford more convenient suburbs, “not everyone’s personality is suited to sharing”.


It became even less feasible if women were trying to support children on the same wage, she said.


Smith said the disparity between average weekly earnings and average weekly housing costs had increased markedly in the past 15 years, due to the “inexorable trend of housing prices,” and said reforms to negative gearing and capital gains tax were desperately needed to curb housing costs.


She also urged state and federal governments to invest in more social housing for those who could no longer afford to be in the private market.


“The differences between the haves and the have-nots in this country is just growing exponentially, and absolutely nothing is happening in the environment at all to stop this trend,” she said.