Students are being left with as little as $13 a day to live on as the youth allowance fails to keep pace with soaring rents, a new analysis from Homelessness Australia shows.
The report compared the cost of sharing an average two-bedroom apartment against the maximum income support payments available to young student renters, revealing they are left with little money to cover food, transport, medicine, utilities and other costs.
Youth allowance has increased by 10% to $562.80 over the last two years with CPI indexing, while the maximum rent assistance is $157.20.
But rents have surged ahead 24%. Since March last year, the national median advertised rent price increased from $450 to $500 to reach a historical high, recent data from PropTrack showed.
A young person who paid 64% of their income two years ago to share a two-bedroom unit would now have to pay 73% of it, said Kate Colvin, the chief executive of Homelessness Australia.
“Our government has said they wouldn’t leave anyone behind, but we’ve got people who are on the lowest income support, young people who get less than people on jobseeker, who absolutely can’t afford the rent and three meals a day,” Colvin said.
“This is not an acceptable situation in a country like Australia.
“The reality is landlords will not rent to a young person whose budget is stretched this thinly, making it almost impossible for young people who can’t live safely at home to find somewhere to live.”
Trenton Hoare, who uses they/them pronouns, receives $674.60 for youth allowance and pays $400 for a room in a two-bedroom apartment in Hobart.
When Hoare moved to Hobart from Devonport in 2021 they were paying $574 for student accommodation near the University of Tasmania campus. This left just $100 a fortnight for groceries, bills and other expenses.
“That was pretty much peanuts and pain,” Hoare said. “Over 70% of my income was going straight to rent in university accommodation.”
Hoare knew it was unsustainable. But after deciding to move out in July it took them six months to find something within their budget. Hoare now works about 15 hours a week to survive.
“It’s taken me about a year to find a casual job that was flexible with my university studies,” Hoare said.
“Without it, I would be able to afford the rental but I would have barely any money left to support myself in that way of groceries and bills.
“It’s just a complete shambles.”
The latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show each year 39,300 children and young people aged 15-24 access homelessness services.
Colvin said this was increasing as young people struggled to make ends meet during the rental crisis.
“It’s not just young people who are fleeing an unsafe family environment, but young people who are just not able to afford the rent,” Colvin said.
She called on the federal government to raise welfare payments to $76, so students and young people can cover the basics.
“By failing to act, we are condemning growing numbers of young people to homelessness and poverty,” she said. “It’s impossible to develop skills and experience or attain an education when you’re hungry or unsure of where you will sleep.”