AHURI study reveals impacts of unaffordable housing to people in poverty

Study also proposes potential policy changes

AHURI study reveals impacts of unaffordable housing to people in poverty


By Mina Martin

Inadequate access to affordable housing increases health and well-being risks for people living in poverty, with high housing costs exacerbating poverty for some and poor housing quality worsening poverty outcomes, new AHURI research has confirmed.

The study, Poverty and Australian housing, conducted by researchers from UNSW and Swinburne University of Technology on behalf of AHURI, examined the connections between housing costs and poverty and identified potential policy changes to mitigate the societal costs of poverty.

During the 2017-18 period, 3.24 million Australians, representing just more than one in eight people and one in six children, were living below the poverty line, defined as 50% of the median household disposable income.

kylie valentine (pictured above), UNSW professor and research lead author, said the high costs of housing can leave people in poverty with insufficient money for essentials such as food, transport, and education.

“It is vital to recognise the lived experiences of poverty and its pervasive impacts, including on housing,” valentine said.

AHURI findings showed that people grappling with poverty suffered constant stress and worry about their ability to meet basic needs. While affordable housing can provide a sense of safety and security, those experiencing poverty often find these elements of life absent or very difficult to access.

“Understanding poverty means understanding what people are going without, such as being close to essential health services or adequate transport options to access education or employment opportunities,” valentine said.

“It also means understanding that living in inappropriate or inadequate housing can incur additional expenditure and further entrench poverty – for example it can cause regular episodes of ill-health, frailty, premature ageing, and even preventable deaths. There is also the very real situation where insufficient incomes and rental stress may lead to rent arrears, resulting in eviction and homelessness.

“Policy preferences in Australia for provision of housing by the market, with a focus on owner-occupation and private rental, have led to flow-on effects on poverty.”

She said it was imperative for governments to recognize the interrelationship between poverty and housing when developing policies that influence the housing sector.

To improve housing outcomes for people experiencing poverty, AHURI proposed that governments make policy decisions that will expand eligibility for Specialist Homelessness Service programs, increase the supply of public and social housing, extend eligibility for Commonwealth Rent Assistance, and reform residential tenancy laws to align termination and eviction regulations with the internationally recognised right to housing.

“For poverty to be eradicated, it’s necessary to work with a frame of housing as a basic right,” valentine said. “Alleviating poverty should be the responsibility of institutions of society acting in partnership with individuals experiencing poverty. It should not be solely the responsibility of individuals alone.”

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