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Lack of affordable housing set to cost Australia $25b a year: SMH

Businesses are increasingly struggling to find and retain workers who can afford to live within an acceptable commuting range, with a major new study warning a chronic lack of affordable housing is set to cost taxpayers $25 billion a year if nothing is done.

Some businesses have even taken matters into their own hands, offering the option of low-cost accommodation to lure workers unwilling to brave the long daily commute.

The study, by public policy consultants SGS Economics and Planning, found decades of under-investment had triggered a collapse in the proportion of the housing stock regarded as affordable.

Social housing – a catch-all phrase covering public housing and other forms of subsidised or lower-cost housing – now makes up just 4 per cent of national housing stock, a record low, and down from 6 per cent in 1996.

It warned if the current trend continues, more than 2 million households that are privately renting will hit the internationally recognised benchmark for housing stress by 2051, under which housing costs soak up at least 30 per cent of a household’s income.

That would represent as much as 14 per cent of the total population (assuming an expected population of 37.4 million people in 2051 and an average household size of 2.6 people).

“Education outcomes for children in lower-income households forced to regularly move due to housing costs can be compromised. Lack of secure housing and a stable home environment can foster anti-social behaviour and criminal activity, triggering expensive government interventions in the policing and justice system.”

The report was commissioned by Housing All Australians (HAA), a group of business figures and academics claiming housing affordability should not only be regarded as a major social problem but also an economic one.

HAA founder and director Rob Pradolin, a former property developer, said the lack of affordable housing wasn’t just a serious issue for low-income households. He said it had become a major economic issue for businesses struggling to attract workers within commuting range.

“We are already hearing of businesses struggling to keep their doors open because the rising rental prices for housing are pushing their staff further out until they are beyond a reasonable commuting range.”

He said businesses were already having to invest in affordable housing to provide cheap accommodation to attract staff, particularly in regional and coastal areas that have experienced
significant population shifts.

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