5 May 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last week, Anglicare Australia released their 2021 rental affordability snapshot, which found that there was not a single rental property in South Australia that a single person on JobSeeker could afford—not a single one. The report also found that there were no affordable properties for those on Youth Allowance, with just 4 per cent of properties considered affordable for families with both parents on JobSeeker.
At the height of the pandemic, JobSeeker recipients were also entitled to a supplementary payment worth $550 a fortnight. With that now gone, and only a minor permanent increase to the JobSeeker payment—a meagre increase—it is clear that the rental affordability crisis gripping South Australia is even greater than before the pandemic.
My question to the minister is: what is the government doing to address this affordability crisis, and will the minister guarantee that no South Australian renter will be evicted into homelessness by extending the moratorium on evictions beyond the end of June?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): I acknowledge the honourable member and his first question in this place and acknowledge his long advocacy for people in these situations. If I can address the last issue first; that is, the issue of the ceasing of the arrangements through the residential tenancy laws, that primarily rests with the Attorney-General through her responsibilities. However, it is something, obviously, that the government is committed to as we pass through this COVID situation and our economy recovers. We are removing some of the restrictions that have been in place during this period.
My understanding of the SACAT process is that, for people who are experiencing financial difficulty, that is always something they take into consideration in any case, so people can make that representation. We also have a particular support service for them, which is a joint service, I think, with SYC and Uniting Communities called RentRight, and they provide advice to people through that situation. The South Australian government has long had a private rental assistance program, which can support people with bonds and rent in advance, so that program is available at all times.
Quite recently, I did go to the Uniting Communities Law Centre, which runs the new advocacy service we provide, which is a multidisciplinary service. They have legal advice and a whole range of things. One of the things that they mentioned to me at that stage is that some of the biggest advocacy that they do is with banks and with people who actually have mortgages, as this can be a particular problem that people run into difficulties with. They have been working quite closely with banks to make sure that people don't fall into the system.
I note through ministerials that I receive that often someone will write to me and raise a particular case and those are often resolved quite quickly. People who have a good track record in the rental system are more than likely to be able to continue to maintain their private rental.
For people who are on Centrelink benefits, there is commonwealth rental assistance, which can be quite generous for people with families. That can be quite a reasonable addition to their income that assists them through the private rental market as well as the programs that are available through state level.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: A supplementary question: I note the minister's response, but will the minister give an undertaking that the government will extend the moratorium around ending evictions beyond the June deadline? The transitional arrangements expire at the end of June; will the minister give an undertaking that that's going to be continued?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): I can't do that because it's a government decision that that will cease, so that's been the decision that's been made.