The price of rent in two of Queensland’s most sought-after holiday spots has become so high that essential workers are being forced to find multiple jobs to keep a roof over their heads.
A report from housing affordability campaign Everybody’s Home this week found critical workers on the Sunshine and Gold coasts were spending a higher proportion of their income on rent than anywhere else in the state, including Brisbane.
The findings compared the award wages for full-time qualified roles, with the average rental price of units in different regions.
On the Gold Coast, it found dispatchers, hospitality workers, and aged care workers on the award would have to spend more than their entire income on rent if they lived alone.
On the Sunshine Coast, it was more than 80 per cent.
St Vincent Care Services runs a major aged care centre in Maroochydore, on the Sunshine Coast, that has 130 residents being looked after by 200 staff.
But chief executive Lincoln Hopper said that was not enough, with 100 shifts a fortnight — and up to 20 full time roles — going unfilled.
People can’t work in the region if they can’t
afford a place to live there,” he said.
“That issue just multiplies the issues that affect aged care at the moment.
People don’t think about that aspect of how the
housing crisis, and the multiple effects that has on people, and particularly their working lives. St Vincent’s Aged Care centre on the Sunshine Coast is just minutes from the beach.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Owen Jacques)
He said vacant shifts were filled by agency or fill-in staff, so residents still received the same amount of support.
But Mr Hopper said some staff were asking for fewer hours so they could fit in their second job, or remain as casuals for the higher pay, simply so they could afford their rent.
“That’s because people are working multiple jobs, to try to maximise their income.
“All of those things conspire against having a permanent, solid, consistent workforce.”
Mr Hopper said his not-for-profit had considered how federal debate over the award for aged care workers could help would-be staff.
“I think we would argue in the case of the Sunshine Coast, that people are so priced out because of the property prices there, I’m not sure many organisations like mine could actually afford to bridge that gap,” he said.
A report compares award wages of essential workers with the average unit rent across the country.(Supplied: Everybody’s Home) ‘Least affordable’ regions
Everybody’s Home spokeswoman and report author, Maiy Azize, said the figures were startling, despite already knowing that essential workers were likely struggling.
“The Gold Coast is the least affordable city of any that we looked at, it’s less affordable than Sydney,” she said.
The Sunshine and Gold coasts are the most expensive places for essential workers to rent in Queensland.(ABC Gold Coast: Kimberley Bernard)
“It’s going to be difficult for anyone who is an essential worker to live on the Gold Coast.
“What that means is that we’re going to see huge workforce shortages in some of these places that are really expensive to live in.”
She said the figures suggested some would be left with just $20 a day for bills, transport, and food after they had paid rent.
“It’s no way to live hand-to-mouth for some of these workers who we all really rely on to keep our communities going,” she said.
“What we’re seeing is that people can’t afford to do some of these jobs, like aged care, like childcare, and live in the communities where they work.”
Federal Housing Minister Julie Collins said the government’s $10 billion
Housing Australia Future Fund, if it passes the Senate, would create 30,000 social and affordable homes in the first five years.
The idea is that the government will invest those billions, and the earnings from that investment — which it says will amount to $500 million a year — will go to housing.
The answer to
rental stress is all levels of government working together to have a sustained boost to the supply of homes to rent, and a substantial investment in new social and affordable houses,” Ms Collins said.
She said housing projects were already being funded with up to $575 million from the National Housing Infrastructure Facility.
But Ms Azize said funding was not enough, the government needed to take action.
She said there was a period of time after World War II during which the federal and state governments built tens of thousands of homes.
In 1944, the Commonwealth Housing Commission wrote “We consider that a dwelling of good standard and equipment is not only the need but the right of every citizen — whether the dwelling is to be rented or purchased, no tenant or purchaser should be exploited for excessive profit”.
Ms Azize said there was a myth that more housing supply would ease prices, but it was more government spending that was needed.
“The simple answer is they don’t want to spend the money,” she said.
“The real reason why we can’t scale this up is because we just don’t have the investment that we need from the federal government.
“That’s the key thing we’re asking them to change.”