Affordable rental housing not delivering for low-income earners, says report

Affordable rental housing is not available to those who need it, says new research by the City Futures Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, commissioned by the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC).

The survey found that Division 3 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009 (ARHSEPP) is being used to develop self-contained “micro-apartments” instead of providing affordable housing for marginal households which was its original intent. These “micro-apartments” are predominately occupied by renters who are either employed or doing tertiary studies.

The research found that the occupants of boarding houses were closer in profile to typical renters than traditional boarding house occupants or social housing waitlists. However, the survey also highlighted that nearly 90% of low-income earners were paying more than a third of their income on rent.

While these “micro-apartments” are able to be fast-tracked under Division 3 of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009 (ARHSEPP), the developments are mostly not operating as lodgings.

Furthermore, self-contained apartment complexes do not meet the definition of a boarding house under Boarding House Act 2012 (NSW), so are not subject to operating regulations and inspection regimes to maintain fire safety, shared accommodation standards and at-risk occupant referrals to FACS.

Dr Laurence Troy, lead author of the report said that “people living in these new types of boarding houses are not who you typically except to find in more traditional boarding houses. The ARHSEPP was intended to provide options for marginal renters, but what we are finding is the most occupants are students and younger workers, people who you ordinarily find in mainstream studio apartment rentals.”

Some key findings of the research report Occupant Survey of Recent Boarding House Developments in Central and Southern Sydney are summarised below:

  • Occupants were mostly (65%) overseas born (though not all recent arrivals), mostly (63%) under 35 years old, and evenly split along gender lines (54% female)
  • 86% were rented out under formal tenancy agreements (cf. lodgings), with a similar proportion being self-contained, with private bathrooms and kitchens, and in some cases partly furnished
  • 41% had access to common areas and onsite management
  • 64% were on low incomes (<$800 per week)