A new report by the Tenants’ Union of NSW and Youth Action digs into issues facing renters under 30. Young people’s voices feature, with quotes taken from the 304 responses to our survey of young renters, as well as observations from the 15 young renters who engaged in our young renter roundtable discussions.
While other generations may have seen renting as a ‘stepping stone’ to home ownership, escalating residential property prices places home ownership out of reach for many young people. As one survey respondent wrote, "Most of us will never own our own home and don’t aspire to it; we’ve given up, as we know it’s an unachievable dream... Renting is permanent for us."
For too long Governments – and often the wider community – could look the other way and ignore the push for change, dismissing concerns on the basis that renting was ‘only temporary.’ But with increasing numbers of renters, and especially young renters, likely to rent long-term, Governments can no longer ignore the problems renters face. Tenancy reforms are critical to ensure young people’s wellbeing, quality of life and housing security.
"Most of us will never own our own home and don’t aspire to it; we’ve given up, as we know it’s an unachievable dream... Renting is permanent for us."
Compounding the economic insecurity young people experience from an uncertain job market is the pressure young renters experience due to a lack of affordable housing. Rental housing affordability was an issue for the largest percentage of young renters in the survey, with 84% of respondents selecting the cost of rental properties as an issue of concern. Younger households are more likely to spend over 30% of their gross weekly income on rent compared to older households, putting them at greater risk of housing affordability stress. The intense competition for affordable housing in the private rental market dials up this pressure-cooker further. The report recommends governments inject more funding in public and community housing to free-up available affordable housing in the private rental market for lower income households.
Sixty-eight percent of people surveyed said repairs not being carried out is an issue that mattered to them. Young renters surveyed said they feel uncomfortable asking for repairs, due fears the landlord will increase their rent or terminate their lease. A survey respondent wrote, "most young people don’t actually complain (contrary to popular belief) enough or even at all, in fear of reprisals by the real estate or landlord.” Young renters are concerned that too many requests for repairs or complaints could lead to termination, with one respondent calling for "more protections for renters so if we stick up for our rights we don’t have to worry about retaliatory actions."
The survey asked young people to rate their "happiness" with their living situation from 1 (not happy at all) to 5 (very happy). Interestingly, the survey found those who live with family are the least happy group (with only 33% rating their happiness at a 4 or 5), and those who live alone are the happiest overall (with 61% reporting ratings of 4 or 5). This suggests the young people surveyed value autonomy highly, and for them living with others (in a shared house or with family) tends to be out of necessity rather than preference.
The Young Renters: We hear you! report adds its voice to demands for more transparency and accountability for landlords and agents. A system requiring licencing or registration for landlords, could help correct the power imbalance experience by renters currently, with clear consequences if landlords fail to meet their obligations. Ending “no grounds” evictions could help assuage the culture of fear amongst renters and improve their security of tenure, no matter what age they may be.