A young man has revealed the desperate actions he has been forced to take to make ends meet as the Queensland government proposes drastic measures to stem the growing housing crisis.
Forced out of the rental market by rising costs, Brock Alexander, a Brisbane man, lives with his parents and helps them cover his own mortgage.
The 24-year-old pays them $150 a week of his support payment from Jobseeker to cover his rent.
The scenario is a catch-22: You can’t afford to move due to rising rents, and if you did, your parents could risk losing their home without your contributions.
North Brisbane man Brock Alexander, 24, lives with his parents and helps them cover his own mortgage as he is unable to pay the rent on his own.
Mr. Alexander pays his parents $150 a week from his Jobseeker support payment to cover his rent.
“I’m between a rock and a hard place right now,” he told NCA NewsWire.
Mr Alexander’s experience comes to light as a new report by Queensland’s leading body for the community services sector exposes the depth of the housing crisis plaguing the Sunshine State.
The report, titled ‘A plan to address Queensland’s housing crisis, found that the number of private tenancies being rented out at low-income affordable rates had halved from 26% to just 13% since 2017-18.
Nearly 150,000 Queensland households have unmet housing needs, meaning they are homeless or low-income people living in private rental housing and paying more than 30 per cent of household income for rent.
It also found that the proportion of affordable rentals in the Brisbane metropolitan area fell from 19 to 10 per cent.
The Queensland Council of Social Services (QCOSS) commissioned the report with support from the Town of Nowhere campaign, Tenants Queensland and The Services Union.
Mr Alexander, who receives a weekly payment from Jobseeker, said properties approved under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) were still out of his price range.
Mr. Alexander said he doesn’t drive because he can’t afford to register his car.
“The cheapest rentals are so far away you’d need a car to get anywhere,” he said.
‘I have a car, but I can’t drive it anywhere because I can’t afford to register it.’
The Queensland Labor government has put forward plans to try to contain the growing rent and housing crisis, including the introduction of a rent cap.
Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said earlier this week that she was looking “very seriously” at how such a policy could be implemented.
“I understand that this is a big problem for families, they are constantly facing huge rent increases,” he said.
But the move sparked outrage from the real estate industry, with Property Council Queensland chief executive Jen Williams explaining it was the “last thing” the state needed.
She said a rent cap would add more barriers amid a lack of supply in all types of housing.
A QLD report found that the share of affordable rentals in the Brisbane metropolitan area fell from 19% to 10% (file image)
Additional barriers to entry, whether through reforms such as the introduction of rent caps, new taxes, changes in regulations, or requirements for the private sector to deliver social housing, all serve to reduce the overall supply of housing, as it becomes more difficult and more expensive to invest,’ said Ms Williams.
“It would be a shame if this progress was undone by the introduction of an ill-considered policy that has far-reaching consequences.”
Mr. Alexander’s housing problems were compounded by the paltry amount he received in income support, forcing him and his family to go to desperate measures just to keep their expenses down.
Part of this included delaying her wisdom teeth surgery, which could cost upwards of $3000, and not receiving her doctor’s recommended vaccinations because they are not covered under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Plan (PBS).
“Our recent water bill was more than 20 percent higher than last quarter; we are now drinking the water from our tank to save on water use,” he said.
Charts from the QCOSS report on the Queensland housing crisis showing the number of users of Specialized Homeless Services
“I’ve started collecting up to 30 recyclable bottles and cans from mall bins every night to take to bin drop stations to redeem returns, making up to $20 per week extra.
‘Last year we ran out of food and The Salvation Army gave me a $100 gift card that I could only use to pick up food from their distribution center on a Friday three days from now, but we were hungry on Tuesday.
“I found a place that offers food that is still edible, but has passed its expiration date.”
While Mr. Alexander had recently been approved for a job, he revealed that he had to turn it down because he was asked to start the next day.
At the time, he couldn’t even afford a train ticket to get there, nor the right work boots for the task.
Graphics from QCOSS report on the Queensland housing crisis showing affordable rents
Asked what could be done to make it easier for people to enter the rental and housing market, Alexander said an increase in rental assistance and the extension of the NRAS scheme beyond 2025 would help ease the stress.
He also advocated for a financial increase in line with a proposal from the Australian Council for Social Services (ACOSS), especially for Jobseeker and Austudy.
“That’s what would help me right now in my situation where many are and shouldn’t be,” he said.
The QCOSS report said a recent burst in rent inflation had led to private rents in Queensland growing faster than in any other Australian jurisdiction.
Rents for houses and apartments in Brisbane have increased by 33 and 23 per cent respectively in the two and a half years since the Covid-19 outbreak.
Alexander has called for an increase in rental assistance and an extension of the NRAS scheme beyond 2025
“Remarkably diverse patterns of change are evident in the homeless or at-risk-of-homelessness cohort,” the report states.
Housing advocacy groups are calling on the Queensland government to introduce tough rental laws in the hope of limiting price increases on rental housing. This comes as rental prices in Brisbane have increased by almost 25 per cent in the 12 months to February.
“It’s not just that the problem has spread faster in certain localities, but certain subgroups have been growing much faster than others.”
QCOSS chief Amy McVeigh said the report was a wake-up call to the scale of the state’s housing crisis.
“The fact that we have 150,000 households with unmet housing needs means that around 300,000 Queenslanders are homeless or low income and paying more than 30 per cent in rent,” said Ms McVeigh.
That is awesome. There are 300,000 Queenslanders, a ‘nowhere town’ with a population nearly double that of the city of Cairns.
She said the “deep-seated problems” needed a response from both levels of government, including a “long, hard look” at the underperforming housing system.
Last year, the Queensland government hosted a historic housing summit in response to crippling housing issues and shocking rental stories.
The government announced that the Housing Investment Fund (HIF) would be increased to $2 billion, supporting a new target of 5,600 affordable and social housing starts by June 2027.
A separate report from the Australian Council for Social Services (ACOSS) and the University of NSW laid out disturbing statistics about Australia’s poverty problems, revealing that one in eight people lived in poverty.