Everyone in Queensland deserves to live a good life but the Living Affordability in Queensland report shows that many people are finding they don’t have enough money to afford the basics. QCOSS is calling on politicians and policymakers to act now and make decisions that prioritise living affordability for every person in every community.
Cost-of-living pressures are increasing, with affordability concerns cited as the leading issue for many households.[i] The ability of households to make ends meet varies across regions, depending on the cost of housing, essential goods and services, transport, and access to education, employment, healthcare, and community supports. With Queensland the most decentralised state in Australia, and notable population growth in some regional areas, these differences can be significant.[ii] Analysing the experiences in different regions is important to highlight where people may be more vulnerable and identify the clear action needed from our elected representatives and communities.
Following on from our 2014 Regional Cost of Living Report, five locations have been selected to compare the cost of maintaining a basic standard of living – Cairns, Mount Isa, Rockhampton, Toowoomba and Brisbane. We have focussed on four low-income households recognising that people trying to survive on low incomes are struggling the most. This approach creates an understanding of how location and income impact living affordability.
The key findings from this report are:
- Newstart and Youth Allowance are not providing the support recipients need to get back on their feet. The failure of our national elected representatives to increase Newstart and Youth Allowance in 24 years has left these households under increasing financial pressure to afford housing, food, and essential services. Many of these households are consistently unable to maintain a basic standard of living in any location creating strain on individuals, families, support services, and the whole Queensland community.
- Housing costs continue to be the leading contributor to changes in the cost of living across regional locations. Housing is more than physical shelter, it allows for safety, security, privacy, identity and social and economic inclusion.
- Rising costs of energy and healthcare are of concern for the community, and these essential expenses are increasing for many households.
- Affordable, reliable transport is lacking in some regions. Transport is essential to maintain access to goods and services, as well as employment, education and connection to community.
- The cumulative effect of financial stressors can have devastating consequences for households. People being able to bounce back from unexpected and emergency expenses is critical for individuals and communities to thrive.
- Supports provided to assist low-income households manage include financial counselling, housing support, emergency relief, rebates and concessions. However there are many people not getting access to the concessions, and rebates they desperately need.
Understanding the relationship between incomes, place, and cost of living helps communities and policymakers to prioritise and respond to local issues. Targeted responses to support households experiencing vulnerability are needed to make sure everyone in Queensland can access to a basic standard of living.
Based on the key findings QCOSS recommends that our elected representatives urgently undertake the following actions:
- raise the rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance by $75 per week
- make renting affordable by capping rental increases
- introduce minimum energy efficiency standards and improve uptake of energy concessions
- make public transport accessible and affordable in regional Queensland
- pass the National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Small Amount Credit and Consumer Lease Reforms) Bill 2018 and invest in place-based community support services.
[i] Roy Morgan (2018). Most Important Problems Facing Australia. Article No. 7504. http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/7504-most-important-problems-australia-the-world-february-2018-201803051043.
[ii] Queensland Government Statistician’s Office. (2018). Population growth highlights and trends.Queensland, 2018 edition. http://www.qgso.qld.gov.au/products/reports/pop-growth-highlights-trends-qld/pop-growth-highlights-trends-qld-2018-edn.pdf.