Many Illawarra residents are facing a level of housing insecurity with skyrocketing house prices, unaffordable rents, and limited housing options, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers has acknowledged the ongoing struggle many Australians are facing when attempting to access affordable housing. During a press conference, he stated that secure, affordable housing had been out of reach for too many Australians for too long.
“Overwhelmingly, when you have a budget with a bit of pressure on it over the median term, you try to do what you can to begin with the most vulnerable people,” Mr Chalmers said.
“It provides enough opportunity for people to get through the difficult period as we try to set up our economy and our country for the future.”
The hope is that the new Labor government will continue to take action to address the housing crisis and provide some much-needed breathing room for residents who are feeling the pinch.
The 2023 federal budget, released on May 9 has shed light on the latest figures and updates to several key government assistance programs.
Among these are the Home Guarantee Scheme and the Commonwealth Rent Assistance program, both of which play a significant role in providing support to individuals and families in the Illawarra region and across the country.
According to the data from the 2021 Australian Census, the Illawarra’s median weekly household income stands at $1,621. However, this is quickly offset by the high costs of housing with median monthly mortgage repayments coming in at $2,056 and the median weekly rent for renters sitting at $400.
From September this year, eligible renters could receive up to $31 a fortnight in assistance payments, making it the largest increase to the program in over three decades.
The housing crisis in the Illawarra is not only characterised by the high cost and shortage of rentals, but also by the increasing un-affordability of buying and owning a home, leaving many residents struggling to secure a place to call their own.
According to Realestate.com.au, there were only 218 rental properties and 157 properties for sale in the Wollongong last month. The median prices for properties in Wollongong over the past year varied from $695,000 for units to $1,110,000 for houses.
The state of the real estate market is influenced by a range of economic factors that go beyond the number of properties available for sale. Interest rate changes and inflation rates are among the factors that can have a significant impact.
Interest rates have increased by a total of 0.75 per cent per annum 2023, according to recent data. The rise in interest rates is likely to have an impact on households with variable rate mortgages, increasing their mortgage repayments and potentially putting pressure on household budgets.
Warrawong resident and single mother of three, Jess Hill, expressed her doubts to the Illawarra Mercury about whether the recent increase in government assistance will be enough to alleviate the impact of the rising cost of living.
“I have been a single mum for a long time. I’m pretty good at being poor,” she said.
She believed the housing crisis in the Illawarra had cast a dark shadow over the lives of many residents struggling to pay rent.
There are hopes that the new budget will positively impact the housing crisis and create a comprehensive strategy that addresses the issue.
With reporting from Zara Koschitzke.