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New ACT relief fund aims to assist struggling renters

By Kyle Robbins
18 April 2023 | 10 minute read
Shane Rattenbury reb

From Monday, 17 April 2023, renters in the territory experiencing financial stress or hardship have the chance to apply for government assistance.

ACT Attorney-General, Shane Rattenbury, explained the initiative, titled the Rent Relief Fund, will “provide targeted, short-term support for people experiencing financial stress or hardship in the ACT’s private rental sector.”

He announced that Care, a community organisation that assists people on low to moderate incomes or who are experiencing financial difficulty, will administer the fund, which will see approved applicants receive a one-off grant for up to four weeks’ rent capped at $2,500.

The grant will be paid directly to the landlord or the grantor in the case of occupants.

Mr Rattenbury believes the fund is “one way we are supporting vulnerable Canberrans and easing the stress for households worrying where next week’s rent will come from.” 

According to SQM research, the median house rent demanded by landlords in the Australian capital in March was $767, while the combined dwelling rent was $657, up 0.5 per cent over the last 12 months and 6.2 per cent over three years.

Carmel Franklin, chief executive officer at Care, heralded the fund for providing “valuable assistance to people experiencing rental stress.”

She added that as part of her organisation administration for the Rental Relief Fund, “wrap-around support” will be provided via a range of programs, including financial counselling, financial capability, consumer law, community loans, and community education.

Care will also refer individuals seeking assistance to other necessary local support services.

Territory Minister for Housing and Suburban Development, Yvette Berry, commended the fund as “an important part of the government’s plan to support Canberrans with the rising cost of living.”

“A secure home is a foundation for people’s wellbeing. We know that the cost of housing can be a significant pressure for some households, and this additional support will go to those who need it most,” she added.

Ms Berry explained the Fund is just one of the schemes the ACT government plans to enact in order to ease the territory’s housing crisis, including “releasing more land, growing and renewing public housing, and reforming the Territory Plan to ensure more housing options for future Canberrans.”

The ACT’s Rent Relief Fund will be open until 30 June 2024. 

The rental crisis is not just confined to the nation’s capital territory, with a number of states experiencing increasingly tight conditions. The most recent Rental Affordability Index (RAI) found over 40 per cent of low-income tenants were experiencing rental stress, as a result of plummeting supply and soaring rents in recent years.

Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Philip Lowe, recently turned his sights on the state of the nation’s rental market when, speaking after the central bank’s decision to hold the official cash rate in April, he explained the existing imbalance between supply and demand “will result in rent inflation being quite high for a while.”

He added, “Rental stress is at least as big an issue at the moment as mortgage stress.”

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