New fiscal policies shift outlook for rental housing: Eliza Owen

New fiscal policies shift outlook for rental housing: Eliza Owen
New fiscal policies shift outlook for rental housing: Eliza Owen


Amid an extraordinary economic slowdown, the Australian economy is heading for its first recession in almost 30 years.

Indicators suggest this fall in demand is starting to weigh on the property market. But a frequent stream of monetary, fiscal and social policies are being rolled out in an attempt to soften the blow to the broader economy, which will also help to insulate housing markets.

Over March, the JobSeeker payment was increased by $550 per fortnight, effectively doubling the highest allowance. Additionally, on the 30th of March, a $130 billion wage subsidy payment was announced, which would see employers receive $1,500 per employee per fortnight.

For eligible employers and employees, workers would receive a gross wage supplement of $1,500 before tax on a fortnightly basis.

The game-changing package has led Westpac economists to reduce their forecast for peak unemployment from 17.0%, down to 9.0%.

This will ultimately lessen downward pressure on housing demand, as more people are able to retain their job during and after the COVID-19 shutdown.

How many rentals are ‘affordable’ on the JobKeeper package?

The JobKeeper subsidy may also see fewer households fall into housing affordability stress.

Housing affordability stress is a situation where households expend more than 30% of income on housing costs, such as rent. To understand how many households may be better off, it is worth considering how many rentals are currently able to be serviced on 30% of the JobKeeper payment.

New fiscal policies shift outlook for rental housing: Eliza Owen

Table 1 (pictured above) shows the portion of the rental market in capital city and regional areas that could be serviced by an individual using just 30% of the JobKeeper or JobSeeker payments (i.e, what portion of the rental market can be rented for $450 per fortnight, or $330 per fortnight).

In considering typical household composition, Table 2 (pictured below) reflects the same analysis for a couple both receiving a benefit.

New fiscal policies shift outlook for rental housing: Eliza Owen

The analysis does not take into account tax on the JobKeeper payment, or voluntary employer top-ups of the JobKeeper amount.

The data highlights that the JobKeeper payments significantly increase the portion of affordable private rentals in Australia.

Flat payments are proportionately beneficial for renting households where rents are cheaper, such as in Regional Tasmania and South Australia.

Incidentally, these are areas that may be more severely impacted by the economic slowdown in terms of the concentration of the labour force in agriculture, food service, tourism and accommodation.

But even with the relatively small portion of rental properties being affordable elsewhere, it is likely that current social distancing measures would see less discretionary spending, enabling a higher portion of income to be used in servicing rent.

Additionally, further protections for renters are in the works. On the 29th of March, federal and state leaders announced a 6 month moratorium on residential and commercial tenant evictions, for households in financial stress who cannot meet payments because of the coronavirus impact.

At a press conference the next day, Prime Minister Morrison made an allusion to further rental assistance, such as a rent guarantee, but such details were “still being worked through”. This would ease pressure on renters to service their full rent commitments, however the impact on landlords remains uncertain. Another note on this data is that it reflects rental valuations as of early April.

As income and job prospects decline, the private rental market will likely see a downwards adjustment, with landlords of vacant properties potentially having to lower rents in order to meet the market.

A final takeaway from this data may be that now is an opportune time to explore more social and affordable housing supply.

As well as added benefits to the construction sector, the government could look to create housing supply that compliments the payments being offered to renters. 

ELIZA OWEN is the Head of Research Australia at CoreLogic

Eliza Owen

Eliza Owen

Property market analyst. I hold a first class honours degree in economics from the University of Sydney. I have been a regular economic commentator on FBI Radio, and have been a guest speaker on Triple J’s Hack, 702 ABC Radio, Sky News and at TEDxYouth Sydney. I have provided comment for various media outlets including The Guardian Australia, the Australian Financial Review, Pedestrian TV, the Daily Telegraph and more.

Property Rental Jobkeeper

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