Tasmania's social services peak body is calling for more to be done to address a growing lack of affordable rentals in regional Tasmania.
The call follows the release of the annual Rental Affordability Index, which this week classed regional Tasmania as "the least affordable" of the areas studied.
The report ranked Tasmania's regions with a RAI score of 103, representing a significant decline from 114 the year before. Anything below 120 is considered unaffordable. Launceston ranked even lower at 94. These figures are based on an average income of $59,200 and drop further when factoring in the annual income of someone receiving government benefits.
The growing lack of affordable housing has been attributed to a nationwide rise in rental prices, which is outstripping generally lower incomes within the state.
Adrienne Picone, chief executive of the Tasmanian Council of Social Service, said the report confirmed what the peak body has been witnessing on the ground.
"In Tasmania, we have become accustomed to the idea that many Tasmanians will never own their own home. We are now, alarmingly, seeing a reality that many Tasmanians cannot even afford to rent one," she said.
In response to the report, Minister for State Development, Construction and Housing, Michael Ferguson, has pointed to the state government's continued investment into social housing.
"Our record investment of $615 million into social and affordable housing, and homelessness initiatives, including our record election commitment of $280 million to extend our building program of new social housing for Tasmanians in need, is the biggest in this state for decades," he said.
According to state figures, the investment will bring 2000 new homes by 2027, in addition to the 1500 already being built over the next three years.
Despite the investment, the waitlist for housing assistance has continued to grow, with more than 4400 applicants still waiting according to figures in the September report. The average time to house priority applicants has also spiked substantially to 73 weeks - a wait Ms Picone believed was simply too long for many.
"That's one-and-a-half years of precarious living, in limbo between unstable, and at times, unsafe lodgings," she said.
Earlier this week The Examiner revealed the struggle of Launceston mother-of-two Stacey Lodge, who has been unable to secure stable accommodation for the past two years and is currently living in an illegally parked campervan in Launceston's northern suburbs. Ms Picone said Ms Lodge's story is becoming more common.
In response to the report, TasCOSS is continuing to call for more government support - including an increase to JobSeeker and Commonwealth Rent Assistance rates as well as a commitment to further increase the amount of available social housing stock over the next 10 years.
"Where markets fail to deliver essential services, governments must step in," she said.
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