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Question: Rental Affordability Scheme

22 September 2021


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Reports in The Advertiser today suggest that hundreds of South Australians are at risk of becoming homeless this year as an average of 10 properties a week come off the National Rental Affordability Scheme. This comes at a time when the rental crisis in South Australia is squeezing even moderate income earners out of the housing market. SACOSS and Shelter SA have expressed concern that low income families and individuals will be left without a roof over their heads when the NRAS program progressively comes to an end. My question to the Minister for Human Services is:

  1. What is the government doing to ensure our public housing stock is increased to ensure we don't see families end up on the street?
  2. Will the government commit to a state government rent subsidy, even as an interim measure, to avoid this impending disaster?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): I thank the honourable member for his question and acknowledge his interest in the issue of potential homelessness. I have been hearing impending predictions of gloom and disaster in the homelessness space for a long time. With that in mind, monitoring what's happening across the environment of the private rental, private purchase, community housing and public housing space and homelessness services is something that we are very, very mindful of through the South Australian Housing Authority.

In terms of the services that we provide, we do, of course, have the private rental assistance program, which provides a bond and rent in advance to people who are in the private rental market. In addition to that, people who are on commonwealth Centrelink benefits have access to commonwealth rental assistance to assist them in the private rental market.

The number of people in rental and mortgage stress is something that we have been very mindful of, which is why we came up with the original strategy. So the Housing Authority has been active, returning to its heritage, if you like, of not just providing public housing to people but also building affordable properties for sale, as it used to, many decades ago. The effect of that is to provide those people who get their foot in the private property market, which only ever goes up, particularly in Adelaide; it gets them out of the private rental system and reduces the demand in that space.

Bearing in mind that the private re-rental market is a very large component of what many households rely on, I did note some comments quite recently from someone in the industry that they believed that some of the demand in that space was easing. I think, as we also see the HomeBuilder grants and those projects being completed, there will be people who will move into those properties and, again, that will reduce demand on the rental market, but this is something that we constantly monitor.

As I said yesterday, I think we have been tracking the homelessness data and certainly across the state the overall data doesn't show that homelessness has been increasing. In fact, the trend data shows that it has been reducing over several years. However, we do always monitor what is happening in this space to ensure that we're providing the best suite of services available.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary question: noting the minister's reply, will the minister commit, on behalf of the government, to introduce a state-based rent subsidy scheme. I'm not talking about the federal scheme: will the minister commit to a state-based rent subsidy scheme?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): As I said in my original response, we already have the private rental assistance program.