Report indicates essential workers cannot afford to rent alone practically a place in Australia

In order to afford the typical weekly rent of $572 in capital cities, workers in the elderly care industry would need to allocate 77% of their salary to housing costs.

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Because of soaring rents, many of Australia's critical employees can no longer afford to do so on their own, according to recent studies.

The national housing campaign Everybody's Home compared average weekly unit rents to award wages for 15 essential jobs and found that in almost no regions of Australia, a single full-time essential worker such as those in aged care, early childhood education, or nursing could afford to rent alone.

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A representative for Everybody's Home, Maiy Azize, explained that "so many essential industries are facing workforce shortages with workers unable to afford to stay or move to areas of the country where these shortages are at their worst."

The average rent in a capital city is $572 per week, so those working in the restaurant or meat packing industries will need to spend 81% of their earnings on housing, while those in the aged care sector will only need to spend 77%.

The average rent in a capital city is 58% of the median income, which is significantly above the 30% threshold for renting stress even for people with higher-paying jobs like teaching or firefighting.

The survey found that "our calculations suggest that essential workers in single households are likely to be in serious financial stress with little or no savings buffer," while those living in couples were more likely to rely on their spouse's salary.

According to SQM Research, median weekly rents across the country increased by more than $100 in the past three years, reaching $489 in March. That's an extra six hours a week, or 37 days a year, that key workers can't put towards paying bills because of rent hikes.

Azize argued that the government's pledge to build 20,000 affordable homes over the next five years through the Housing Australia Future Fund was insufficient to address the magnitude of the situation.

She said that the shortage could only be resolved if the federal government began constructing 25,000 social dwellings annually.

That will relieve the burden on workers who are already struggling to find an inexpensive place to live. Cutting back on subsidies for investors and landlords is one way the government may provide funding for social housing.

Sometimes businesses are picking up the slack. Aged care service Benetas in Victoria converted four Bendigo independent living apartments into temporary housing for workers who were having trouble paying local rent or commuting long distances.

"When you're making $26 an hour, that doesn't go far," said Benetas CEO Sandra Hills, referring to the fact that some employees had to travel more than 1.5 hours to go to work and that others had to stay in Airbnbs.

She also mentioned that the company has been providing rental references for employees, but that these have been less helpful as landlords increasingly favour higher-paying tenants.

"We are struggling to attract and keep really good carers in our aged care homes due to the challenges of rental affordability, particularly in regional areas," she added.

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