Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Rent Tracker

Over the last few years we've been looking at various ways of measuring rents in New South Wales, and pointing out that there is a really powerful source of data to which of us tenants who pay bond contribute.

The Rental Bond Board holds nearly 800,000 bonds and each one tells a story - what the rent was for a particular property at a particular time in a particular location. If you add all of those stories together, you get the Rent part of the Rent and Sales Report, as published by Family And Community Services.

Today we released the report version of Rent Tracker. We've dug in to the Rent and Sales Report and drawn out extra data, to help give more context to changes in rents. We've also looked at advertised rents as well as the actual rents, to help add depth and understanding to the stories reported in the media.

This data source should be seen as one of the go to sources of information about what is happening in renting. It's important to know what landlords and agents hope to get for a property they advertised, but it's at least as important to know what they actually do get. As well as ongoing improvements to the report, we'll keep blogging about how this data can help understand the state of the rental market!

Check out Rent Tracker here.

Monday, June 27, 2016

NSW Budget: Private rental subsidies

With NSW budget night behind us, the fourth and final entry in our series on the 2016-17 State budget looks at a suite of new and expanded rental subsidies for targeted groups in the community.

Rent money features heavily in the 2016-17 budget

The largest announcement is that funding for 'Start Safely' will be increased dramatically - from $43 million to $100 million over four years. The Start Safely rent subsidy assists women leaving domestic violence to move from crisis accommodation to the private rental market. The additional funding will allow the Department of Family and Community Services to extend the maximum length of the subsidy from 2 to 3 years, and raise the income eligibility threshold - though by what amount is not clear. It should also free up spaces in crisis accommodation in turn. 

Also prominent is the creation of two new rental subsidies. 'Rent Choice' is a medium-term subsidy that will require recipients to engage with education/or employment, as well as unspecified 'relevant supports'. The 'Youth Private Rental Subsidy' will be available to persons aged 16-24 and at risk of homelessness, and may also require engagement with education and/or employment programs. The full value of these new subsidies is not yet clear.

Both Start Safely and the new rental subsidies were flagged in the 'Future Directions' roadmap for Social Housing from 2016-2026.

Thirdly, the Government has allocated $1.1 million in 2016-17 for rental assistance products to support the Commonwealth Government's one-off increase to Australia's refugee intake. The Family and Community Services budget briefing provides that these funds will support the existing 'Rentstart Bond Loan' and 'Rentstart Advanced Rent' programs. Respectively, these provide recipients with interest free loans for payment of a rental bond, and assistance with rent payments to establish a tenancy. Though this initiative was not canvassed explicitly in Future Directions, it is reflective of the plan's intention to 'promote the uptake of existing rental assistance products'.

Though exact figures are nebulous, it's clear that tens of millions of dollars towards helping prospective tenants establish and keep tenancies will leave these most deserving groups markedly better places. This should not be discounted nor understated.

Nonetheless, question marks remain. Most notable is an issue of overarching policy direction - is the private rental market best-placed to be doing the 'heavy lifting' of housing especially vulnerable, low income groups? Certainly, there is a strong argument on value for public expenditure. That land and construction costs are exceedingly high in NSW is well-established; though it indexes national prices, The Economist's global house price index reflects this as starkly as any source. In this respect, rent subsidies are an easy fix, given they require no State investment in land or capital works. But as we have noted time and time again, the private rental market lacks stability, liveability, and affordability - including in comparison to Social Housing, which has traditionally housed many in these groups. This particularly impacts tenants that are already vulnerable for other reasons. To use an obvious example, will a landlord that issues a no-ground notice of termination consider that their rent-subsidised tenant may be particularly affected as a result? And though NSW Fair Trading's review of the Residential Tenancies Act may deliver some improvements, it appears it will be a case of incremental rather than revolutionary progress. 

There is also the question of how precisely Rent Choice and its youth-oriented offshoot will function. If participants fail in their obligations to engage with supports and 'opportunities', will subsidies be decreased or even removed? Available information suggests this is a distinct possibility. Though educational and employment opportunities for these groups should certainly be welcomed, jeopardising their security of tenure in this manner should not. 

Finally, we note that it appears possible that NSW will house the majority of the 12,000 refugees arriving in Australia as part of the on-off increase in the national intake, and resettlement could occur over a period of 1-2 years. Accordingly, we hope that the modest allocation of $1.1 million for refugee-specific programs is sufficiently large - and will be carried over if arrivals are staggered over future budget cycles. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Will rents rise if Australia votes for tax reform?

We've heard that some people - let's call them real estate agents and a couple of prominent politicians - have been saying rents will rise if Australia votes for tax reform. We thought we'd better check this out.

We've already looked at how negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts distort the rental market at a macro level - you can read about that here - so it's hard to know exactly what these soothsaying ne'er-do-wells are getting at. Affordable rental housing couldn't really disappear from the market any faster than it already does. And if the current reform proposal does get up, existing arrangements will not be affected, so current landlords would not be able to use the old "suddenly I am paying more tax, and I must pass this unexpected cost on to my tenant" excuse.

Still, we can't shake this feeling that, should it come to pass, landlords could try to use a new tax regime as a screen for putting up the rent. Real estate agents' bottom lines would benefit from higher rents, and because they favour the status quo they have nothing to lose from cultivating an expectation that change means rents will increase...

One of the first claims you'll hear a real estate agent fall back on is that rents took off after Paul Keating made some adjustments to negative gearing back in 1985. If it happened then, they say, it will happen again. Never mind that the claim has been contested and discredited time and time again - see, for example, this 2003 article from Ross Gittins, which discusses rents rising in Sydney and Perth in the late 1980's, but not in other parts of the country; or this more recent piece from the ABC's Fact Checker, which reaches a similar conclusion before quoting a 1987 Cabinet Submission:
With the notable exception of Sydney, conditions in the residential rental property market are not unusually tight. The evidence suggests that local influences, rather than tax measures, dominate in metropolitan rental markets.
The Fact Checker article goes on to examine some of the "other influences" that could have been contributing factors. It cites high interest rates as well as high prospective capital gains in other investment classes, making residential property a less attractive option. But one of the influences that hasn't been mentioned is the impact on rents of residential tenancies legislation at the time.

Keen followers of renting law reform will know that tenancy agreements in New South Wales were not regulated by the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 until it commenced in 1989. This means that back in 1985, putting the rent up in Sydney was much easier than it is today. Landlords would simply offer a rent increase, and if the tenant didn't accept it they'd usually get a notice to quit and have to move out. But some other states - notably Queensland, Victoria and South Australia - had brought in new renting laws somewhat earlier. Which means that rent increases were better regulated in other parts of the country while Keating was tinkering with tax, and Sydney rents were doing their thing...

Of course, renting laws still vary from state to state, and tenants in some states may again be better equipped to handle wholesale rent increases than in others. Even so, to the extent that rents are now regulated, they are still very much tied to "the market". Landlords set the rent based on what tenants are prepared to pay, and if a tenant challenges an excessive rent increase it is generally decided by a tribunal with market comparisons in mind. But the important thing is that such a challenge is possible, and tenants should not hesitate to exercise this right if the need arises. This right was not available in Sydney in the mid-1980's.

Landlords who claim they will set rents according to tax policy, rather than market factors, should have cause for caution. Rents continue to reflect a fine balance between vacancy rates and tenants' incomes, and landlords cannot move the market by sheer force of will. Thankfully, those bad old days are over.

Nevertheless, we expect there will still be some landlords, real estate agents and politicians who continue to insist that tax reform will result in rent increases. Here are a couple of useful points to keep handy, just in case you ever find yourself in conversation with one:

Rents are not tied to other costs
Rents increase faster than the general cost of living. We'd have thought this was common knowledge, but SQM Research's recent report suggests perhaps it is not - they've suggested Labor's tax reform proposal could lead to "an acceleration in rents above and beyond the CPI rate". But here's what rents already look like against CPI, over the last quarter of a century:

Rents v CPI, from the TU's Rent Tracker (coming soon!)
There's been plenty of "above CPI acceleration" in there, even without tax reform.

We also know from tax data that rents increase faster than landlords' costs. We explored this in our report 5 years of the Residential Tenancies Act:
... landlords collect significant amounts of income from their tenants each year. In the 2009-10 financial year landlords declared $9.7billion in rental income for properties in New South Wales. This increased to $12.1billion in 2012-13. An increase is to be expected given the growth of the sector, but even so this represents approximately $2,175.00 more rent to landlords in 2012-13, per property, than in 2009-10. The average costs declared by landlords over the same period rose by $880.00 per property.
So we can conclude - rents go up because they can, not because they need to, and certainly not in response to any particular cost factors for landlords.

There's no room in the market for higher rents
Rents go up because they can, unless for some reason they can't. At some point, rents become unaffordable, and tenants cannot continue to pay them. When this happens, tenants are forced to find homes in a more affordable area, or they're forced to share a home with others. In their 2013 report Long term private rental in a changing Australian private rental sector, Stone, Burke, Hulse and Ralston found that families with children now make up the largest group across Australian private rental markets. These households may not be inclined to share, which means landlords need to keep rents within their reach so as not to price them out.

None the less, the report also shows that the fastest growing group is shared households. Tenants are increasingly responding to high rents by pooling their resources and living together. Further research suggests that share housing is not the domain of young people alone, with a marked increase in the number of people over 40 recently using the share house finding website

Meanwhile, the Rental Affordability Index continues to reflect the grim reality of high rents across the country. The RAI reveals that under current conditions, low-income households typically need to pay 50 to 85 per cent of their income on rent. And as we showed in another recent post about rents, even a modest - and much needed - increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance couldn't open the gate for higher rents.

If tax reform happens and the rent goes up, who's going to pay it?

Landlords really, really need the rent, and so do their banks
Even though rents are no reflection of costs, it's really quite expensive to be a landlord. As we discussed in our Tenants' Guide to Tax Reform, their biggest expense comes from the purchase of a property in the first place. According to tax data, the interest payable on loans amounts to more than all other expenses combined, even with record low interest rates:

Landlords' expenses ($billions) Source: ATO
That's not surprising when you consider that banks have been lending, on average, more than $550million to Australian landlords each month for the last year.

If landlords were to increase the rent beyond what the market could bear, or even beyond what the market can anticipate, many would start to experience periods of vacancy. Even a short-term loss of rental income could have serious consequences for landlords - at best it would affect cash-flow arrangements and compromise their ability to meet a mortgage commitment without making other sacrifices; at worst it would lead to mortgagees calling in bad debts.

So, all things considered, if you come across a landlord, real estate agent or politician who insists tax reform would lead to higher rents, we reckon you should call their bluff.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Residential Tenancies Act in review - positive change, and more of the same...

Today the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, the Hon. Victor Dominello MP, tabled a report in Parliament outlining the findings and recommendations of the statutory review of the Residential Tenancies Act.

On the floor of parliament today - the review of the Act sees the light of day
It's a bit of a mixed bag, but it contains no big surprises. There are 27 recommendations - some specific, some broad, and some suggesting there's more work to do before reform options can be put forward. Disappointingly, these reflect some of the most important issues - security of tenure, and the coverage of the Act for people living in shared rental housing.

On the other hand, the report recommends a suite of changes that would make it easier for victims of domestic violence to leave a co-tenancy, and ensure they cannot be held liable for damage caused by a violent co-tenant. For this, the authors of the report should be congratulated.

Of the remaining recommendations, most could be described as positive - sensible, even - but there are a couple in there that we might prefer disappeared quietly.

There is no indication of how and when the report's recommendations will be progressed.

We'll start getting into the detail of it as soon as we can. In the meantime, we extract the key part of the report's executive summary:
The major area where amendment is needed is in relation to the protections in the Act for victims of domestic violence. The review recommends a number of amendments to make it easier for victims to either leave a violent home or end the tenancy of a violent co-tenant without financial penalty, and to avoid being penalised for damage caused by domestic violence. 
The review also explores the issues of security of tenure and protections for occupants of share households. These issues featured heavily in submissions from tenants' advocates and the review recommends further work on these topics. 
The review also recommends minor amendments in the areas of:
  • pre-tenancy disclosure requirements
  • condition reports
  • interest paid on bonds
  • Rental Bonds Online
  • water and utility charges
  • repairs
  • alterations
  • break fees
  • tenancy databases and
  • electronic service of notices and signatures
For a copy of the full report, see here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

NSW budget: homelessness funding

In the third of our blog series regarding tenancy and housing in the budget, we look at two more items concerning homelessness and housing unveiled by the Government for the financial year to come.

The larger of these announcements, from Premier Mike Baird, concerns a $40 million funding package aimed at preventing homelessness among young people. The Government will provide $10 million a year over four years toward 'housing, education, training and jobs support' to young adults leaving out-of-home care. The announcement notes that 60% of young people who enter homelessness services have been in out-of-home care.  

It is provided that specific initiatives to be funded include "more transitional housing properties linked to specialist homelessness or other support providers", and "expanding private rental subsidies and accommodation as well as mentor support to vulnerable young people enabling them to access education and training and transition to jobs and independent living"Though it is not stated explicitly in the announcement, this funding appears to be targeted at persons aged 19-24. 

This constitutes a major spending announcement, relatively speaking. The package is several times larger in terms of expenditure than the announcement covering support for Social Housing tenants - and a full 40 times the size of the veterans' rental subsidy discussed below. We certainly support efforts to provide housing, rent assistance, and related support to young people at risk of homelessness. This is particularly so for young people leaving out-of-home care: both Government statistics and the recent Registry Week report from homelessness peak Homelessness NSW suggest this group is overrepresented amongst our homeless population. 

But as the announcement is light on detail, we do have some questions. Most particularly, does providing 'more transitional housing' and 'expanding accommodation' equate to expanding the Social Housing portfolio? If so, how many new dwellings will be delivered? Who will manage them? Would they be provided in addition to other initiatives to deliver more housing under the 'Future Directions' plan for Social Housing? Alternatively, does the announcement suggest targeted allocation of existing properties to young people leaving out-of-home care? How would this impact upon others in need of Social Housing from outside this cohort? Finally, what does 'mentor support' entail?

The second announcement, from the desk of Family and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard, provides for the creation of another new rental subsidy. Valued at $1 million over an unspecified period, it will assist homeless war veterans to access the private rental market. This appears part of a pledge in Future Directions to increase private rental subsidies. That forms part of a broader objective to deliver increased opportunity for vulnerable persons to avoid and exit the Social Housing system. 

As Homelessness NSW recently noted on the issue, there is evidence that around 8% of homeless people in inner Sydney identify as veterans. But whilst all these people require housing, around half also require intensive support - sometimes for the rest of their lives. So though targeted rental subsidies represent a good start, more holistic support is clearly needed for these most vulnerable members of the community. 

A Homelessness NSW statement addressing 2016-17 budget measures relating to homelessness welcomed an "improved commitment" from the Government - noting especially the increase in rental subsidies. But the organisation called on the State to commit further to addressing the causes as well as the symptoms of homelessness; "Again, the increased investment in mental health, drug and alcohol services, out of home care and domestic and family violence is welcomed but in the context of a healthy economy, higher employment and a forecast surplus of $3.7 billion the time is right to significantly address the causes of social disadvantage and homelessness at a comparable level to infrastructure investment."

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

NSW Budget: Social Housing funding

The Government will officially hand down the budget today, but much that will be of interest to us on the Brown Couch has already been revealed.

There's no shortage of measures relevant to the Social and Affordable Housing space. A joint statement by Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Social Housing Brad Hazzard has added more meat to the bones of 'Future Directions' - the Government's ten-year plan for management and growth of the Social Housing portfolio. We detailed the three priorities of the document back in January, when the plan was announced: more Social Housing, more opportunities to avoid or leave Social Housing, and a better Social Housing experience. Much has happened on the 'more Social Housing' front since then (our Clearing House has been keeping tabs), but little otherwise. Until now; the initiatives revealed in the joint statement are best categorised under 'more opportunities to avoid or leave Housing'. They amount to $14.4 million of spending, mostly delivered over four years, for jobs, education, and support programs for Social Housing tenants. 

The 'Future Direction' of Housing is increasingly clear (though doesn't include tree houses...yet)

For one, the State will provide $4 million for a free job seekers' service for Social Housing tenants, and a further $1.2 million for 150 tenants to receive training, support, and work placements as care workers. Most important is that the job seeking service will be accessible on a voluntary basis. This would seem to satisfy our reflexive concern that such initiatives to 'improve opportunities' could in fact threaten tenancies, if tenancy agreements were conditional upon participation. And if the initiative to move tenants into work as carers seems oddly targeted, consider that the impending rollout of the NDIS is expected to create considerable new demand for care workers throughout Australia. There is also thought to be unmet demand for care workers in the aged care sector. So whilst the scope of the latter measure is decidedly modest, the strategy appears sound. We hope it captures some of the hundreds of thousands in the community performing this valuable work without pay.

For education, there's $3.2 million towards scholarships and support services for high school students from "low socio-economic backgrounds", with a view to assisting school leavers access tertiary education. We might query whether the Government hasn't shoehorned another agency's program into the Social Housing sphere, because unlike other initiatives, there's nothing in the announcement suggesting the program is actually targeted at students residing in Social Housing.

Also announced is a further $2 million, which will be provided as "seed capital" to deliver "opportunities" for students from Social Housing of pre-school age. We'd call that explanation clear as a heavy fog, in a blizzard, at night, with sunglasses on, but it's all we have to go on. So we will refrain from commenting on its worth at this stage. 

For support, the State promises $4 million "for nurse home visiting to improve child development and assist with the co-ordinated care of vulnerable and at-risk families". Given it is targeted at all vulnerable families, this presumably falls as much into the 'avoiding Social Housing' bracket as it does the giving of 'opportunities' for current public housing tenants. Though it is certainly no panacea, assistance of this kind could be a great assistance to families at risk of homelessness.

The one other detail of substance is that total spending on Future Directions programs over the next four years will come to $280 million, so it's reasonable to expect more announcements to follow.

Monday, June 20, 2016

State Budget 2016: extra duties for foreign purchasers

The NSW Government will hand down its 2016-17 State Budget on June 21. That's... tomorrow!

But announcements on new spending and policy are already finding their way out of Macquarie Street. One matter of some interest to tenants - and more than a few landlords, we bet - concerns changes to stamp duty payable by foreign purchasers.

Investors not ordinarily residing in Australia will be obligated to pay an additional 4% surcharge on the purchase of residential real estate. This is considerable. As The Sydney Morning Herald noted, the duty payable on a home purchased for the median Sydney house price of $995,804 would all but double from $40,305 to $80,137. It is expected to raise an extra $1 billion over four years.

The official rationale is that the surcharge serves the broader community interest by raising funds for public amenities. Or, as Victoria, which recently implemented its own surcharge, puts it: as capital growth in residential property is largely attributable to an area's quality of life, foreign purchasers (who are unlikely to pay much if any tax to Australia on income, consumption, and so on) should make a fair contribution to the public spending that delivers that quality. 

But from a tenant's point of view, the move is less interesting for the official line as what else it might say about our housing market. Office of State Revenue figures show that the NSW Government has been riding high on stamp duty revenue for the last several years - from collecting $3.3 billion in 2011/12 to well over $7 billion in 2015/16. But, of course, this is inexorably linked to sharp growth in sales prices, in Sydney especially. And the latest Rent and Sales Report suggests prices flattening or slightly declining in a number of LGAs across Greater Sydney. Many well-placed commentators are warning of more of the same - including the Reserve Bank, OECD, property analysts CoreLogic, and ratings agency S&P from last week alone. 

Shadow NSW Treasurer Ryan Park said of the surcharge, "We're very concerned that this is a very short-term move based on the fact that the Government knows that the [property] market is cooling, based on the fact that we're all the more reliant on stamp duty."  And tenants may have reason to share that concern. Because a reliance on sharp and perpetual growth in property sales to fund spending is a reliance on housing speculation. That is, the same speculation that has sparked price growth to lock tenants who would be homeowners out of the purchase market - in many cases for good. As we explained in one of our favourite posts on the Brown Couch, those frustrated homeowners are not the only tenants missing out. They also tend to be more competitive in the rental market in which they are forced to remain than those on lower incomes - forcing up rents across the board. 

Of course, restraining this speculative frenzy is not a matter for State Government alone. It's also a major Federal Election issue, and part of the focus of the excellent Vote Home campaign. But you can be sure tenants would benefit much more from efforts to create a more equitable and accessible housing market than from an extra $1 billion skimmed from foreign participants in our speculative housing market.

On the other hand, some developers have declared that the surcharge will actually have the unintended consequence of driving house prices down. There's precious little evidence to support the position.

There's one more thing to consider: we've also heard our share of stories about foreign purchasers buying properties off the plan, only to leave them empty. The alleged practice would allow the dwelling to be sold as new, negating any need for the purchaser to spend on maintenance or property management. It also restrains rental supply - thereby helping to drive up rents even as new homes are delivered to market. There's nothing definite to establish just how widespread the practice might be, but the UNSW City Futures Research Centre has raised concerns about what it says are up to 90,000 unoccupied dwellings throughout Sydney. A surcharge on stamp duty could function as a disincentive against the practice; As most purchasers will be required to pay tens of thousands of dollars more, they could be driven to take the extra steps required to attain a rental income to help cover it.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Happy anniversary, Residential Tenancies Act - part 4

Six years ago today the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 became part of the law of New South Wales.
Now we are six we're as clever as clever...
Part of the deal was that it must be reviewed after five years, to see whether its policy objectives remain valid, and its terms remain appropriate.

This statutory review of the Act commenced in late October 2015, with NSW Fair Trading inviting interested parties to contribute via a public discussion paper. They received in excess of 200 submissions - many of them from tenants. We produced our own submission, and have discussed it quite a bit on the Brown Couch as well.

The review is required to conclude within a certain time. The responsible Minister must table a report in both Houses of Parliament by the sixth anniversary of the Act's date of assent. That means it's due today.

But there's a problem - Parliament is not sitting today.

Both Houses will sit for three days next week, before taking a break until early August. The Government of NSW will use these sitting days to deliver the 2016-17 State Budget, and will no doubt have much to discuss. Will they also have time to table a report on the state of our renting laws?

We sure hope so! Stay tuned, we'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The rent (assistance) is too damn low

Sydney, we have a real problem.

The rent in Sydney is so high now that even historic pockets of affordability are way out of reach for people doing it tough. We might have been able to rely on public or social housing if supply had kept pace with the growing population, but it didn't.

That shortfall has combined with pressure from moderate income households - also desperately trying to keep their budgets in check - and landlords taking full advantage to meet their exorbitant interest costs, to squeeze this city dry of affordable rental housing. The most graphic way of seeing the impacts for the last few years has been Anglicare's Rental Affordability Snapshot. Now we have a second way of showing the problem in the form of National Shelter's Rental Affordability Index. Sydney is a sea of red and orange, showing the lack of affordable options.
Sydney's rental housing. The redder it gets, the cheaper it ain't.
At the fringes there appears to be some hope - green looks promising, if you receive close to a moderate wage. But we wondered about tenants surviving in this city on Newstart, and receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA). We crunched some numbers, and the news is not good.

We've looked at how much a one bedroom apartment would cost to rent in some of the more traditionally affordable parts of Sydney and surrounds, and compared it to the income a single person person receives on the Newstart allowance, plus CRA. We can see the numbers going back to 2004 when the Rent and Sales Report began reporting on first quartile rents for each Local Government Area. The "first quartile" in this case is the level of rent halfway between the lowest rent for new bonds lodged in March of each year, and the median, or middle rent.

We chose these five Local Government Areas as being both historically and currently some of the most affordable areas of the Sydney region, as well as representing the northern, southern and western areas within a relatively accessible distance from the city.
Clearly, Rent Assistance has never been about paying the rent in full. But it does make a real difference in bringing a home within reach for a lot of us who would struggle even more without it.

Click image for larger version
Government figures show that more than a quarter of people in NSW who receive rent assistance would pay more than 30% of income if not for CRA, and 15% would otherwise be paying pay more than 50% of their rent. However, in NSW we are still left with 15% of people, or nearly 70,000 tenants, who are paying more than 50% of their income even after receiving CRA.

The #votehome campaign is calling for a 30% increase in rent assistance. What would that look like? We've applied that to a few different household types in Wyong, the cheapest LGA for lower quartile rents in Greater Sydney. These figures show what percentage of income is taken up by rent after receiving CRA. Remember, anything over 30% is considered unaffordable if you receive a low income:

With a 30% increase in CRA:

OK, it may not look like much, but it translates into around $20 a week more to spend on food, utilities, clothes or health. While the other income support payments look better, it is important to keep in mind that people living with disabilities, and those with kids do have other expenses that can really stack up. Ultimately, Newstart is just inadequate as a payment and needs to be increased, but an increase in rent assistance will still make a substantial difference.

You can support the increase by signing the #votehome petitions here.

The rent figures were derived from the Rent and Sales Report. We'll be releasing the first edition of Rent Tracker shortly, where we'll dig in to the reality of rent prices in NSW and explore the wealth of knowledge that the tenants of NSW provide simply by paying bond.