Surging Qld rents sapping living standards

Marty Silk |

Thousands of low-income families in Queensland probably don’t have enough money to meet basic living or dietary standards due to surging rental costs and inadequate welfare payments, according to a report.

The Queensland Council of Social Services modelling shows unemployed single parents and families where only one parent is able to work are the most vulnerable to financial shocks, emergencies or unplanned expenses.

About 60,477 single parents are falling $200.53 short, and families with one working parent are $174.23 short, of meeting basic living expenses every week, the report says.

The QCOSS says low-income households already spend a higher proportion of income on housing, food, electricity, transport, phone and internet services, and inadequate welfare payments are compounding problems. 

“Spiralling inflation, housing stress and rising energy costs have squeezed these households’ budgets even further, resulting in compromises being made on the consumption of essential goods and services,” said the report, released on Monday.

“None of these households have sufficient income to meet any unplanned expenses or emergencies. They cannot make meaningful savings and are highly vulnerable to increasing levels of debt, often from predatory lenders.”

About 95 per cent of unemployed single-parent households are led by women, the report said, and they spend about 46 per cent of their income on rent.

Unemployed single-parent households were also “likely to experience deficits with food and nutrition” because they don’t have enough money.

Low-income families with only one working parent also faced similar problems with about a third of their income swallowed by rent, the report said.

“A nuclear family household with one primary ‘breadwinner’, even when earning above minimum wage, is no longer able to provide sufficient income to meet a basic standard of living,” the report said.

The report also found single unemployed adults with no dependants were likely to be $24 short of meeting basic living standards, while students were $7.32 under, each week.

The only low-income households able to meet consistently meet basic standards with their income was senior couples, over the age of 76, with no dependants. 

QCOSS chief executive Aimee McVeigh said all households in the report were paying more than 30 per cent of their weekly income toward rent, which was housing stress.

“This report highlights the severe financial pressure Queenslanders are under. A two-decade high inflation rate, housing stressing, and spiralling energy prices are squeezing households’ budgets beyond what people can handle,” she said

“The growing levels of poverty community services are currently seeing is heartbreaking, especially in the lead-up to Christmas.”

She urged the federal government to lift income support payments to at least $73 a day to ensure unemployed people can meet basic living standards.