LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – The second NT Cost of Living Report, released today by the Northern Territory Council of Social Service with support from NT Shelter, reveals that Territory households pay a greater proportion of their incomes on housing costs than households elsewhere in the country.
These high housing costs are being driven by rises in the cost of buying a home as well as rental costs.
The report shows that the Northern Territory is the only place where renters pay a significantly greater proportion of their income on housing costs than do home owners. Given the reliance on rental housing for many low income households this is an alarming finding.
In the past year alone, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for rental housing in Darwin has risen by 7.9%, compared with the national rise of 3.2%. In the last 15 years, rent prices in the NT have risen by 87%, while the general CPI has risen by 53%.
These trends are of great concern to NTCOSS, as the cost of living in the NT is already high, and we know that households in the lowest income quintiles spend more on housing costs than those in the highest quintiles. Any increases in housing costs hit those with the least ability to pay, hardest.
On average, NT households spend $82 more per week on housing costs than the average Australian household, and this should be cause for alarm for all Territorians.
The NT faces the staggering situation where the median weekly rental price for a three bedroom house in Darwin, in the suburb with the lowest rental prices, is more than the total weekly income for a sole parent, with two children, on Newstart and receiving maximum Family Tax Benefit payments.
Added to the alarming findings on rising costs are the facts that the homelessness rate in the NT is almost 15 times the national rate, and urban public housing stocks are dwindling while demand rises.
Given all this, it is hard to conclude anything other than the Northern Territory is in a state of continual housing crisis. We have been living with low housing stock availability, appalling standards of housing, and high homelessness rates for so long, that such figures can lose their sting. This has to be unacceptable in 2013.
In the lead up to Christmas, we owe it to Territorians to take decisive action to provide affordable housing to ease the burden many households are facing.
Ms Wendy Morton
Executive Director, NTCOSS
Toni Vine Bromley
Executive Officer, NT Shelter
LETTER TO THE EDITOR