As rental prices continue to soar across the country, experts say a program designed to help struggling tenants find affordable accommodation should be extended.
The National Rental Affordability Scheme is due to wrap up in 2026 after running out of Federal Government funding support, but has been described by advocates as “more important than ever”.
With rental prices surging at the fastest pace in seven years and continued upward pressure on cost of living, more and more tenants are finding themselves in rental stress – or unable to find housing.
Out of almost 50,000 rental listings analysed by Anglicare Australia in May, just seven were deemed to be affordable – that is, costing less than 30% of a household’s income – for a single adult on JobSeeker.
Just nine were deemed to be affordable for a single parent on JobSeeker with one child.
NRAS was established in 2008 as part of a raft of Rudd Government-era measures to improve housing affordability. It helps low- to moderate-income people by offering homes priced at least 20% below market value.
But funding won’t continue and the scheme will end in three years’ time.
NRAS listings are posted on the rental section of realestate.com.au. Picture: Getty
Leo Patterson Ross, CEO of the Tenants Union of New South Wales, said affordable housing is “more important than ever”.
“NRAS is a program that had flaws but certainly has made a difference to the people living in those properties,” Mr Patterson Ross said.
“As the scheme winds up, it is clear that the need for genuinely affordable homes in the community has only grown. Though affordable housing like NRAS can often fail to provide truly genuinely affordable homes, a 20% to 25% reduction can still be significant cost saving.”
How NRAS works
NRAS provides financial incentives to investors to rent to people on lower incomes for a price at least 20% below market value. Applications come through a property manager.
The investor must commit to a 10-year arrangement with the NRAS provider.
While NRAS rentals are not social housing, they allow those struggling to get a foot in the door a chance to rent privately at a lower cost.
Only those on a certain income limit are eligible for an NRAS-supported rental. The current income caps are:
While the reduced rental rates can help tenants, once they exit the program many are faced with the same struggles as before.
“Our organisation and and Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services have been in contact with renters living in NRAS properties that have ended [their arrangements] and really struggled to find somewhere else to live,” Mr Patterson Ross said.
“The ultimate solution is a rapid and large increase in public housing, which can deliver genuinely affordable homes.
“In this transition period, there is a clear role for either federal or state governments to play. They should ensure a transition that doesn’t place people at risk of homelessness by continuing to cover the cost of reduced rent, and then use that period to find a more permanent home.”
Those on Centrelink payments struggle to find a private rental within their budget. Picture: Getty
Demand remains high for NRAS properties
Not dissimilar to other private rentals, NRAS listings are posted on realestate.com.au. To find them, a tenant can search within their preferred area and put ‘NRAS’ into the keyword search section.
Unfortunately, they are relatively scarce. Currently, there are just 21 NRAS listings in NSW, 35 in Victoria, and 20 in Queensland.
Stephanie Francis from Rent Star manages rentals across Brisbane, including NRAS homes, and said demand for these properties extremely high.
This NRAS property in Redbank Plains in Queensland is listed for $231 per week. Picture: realestate.com.au/rent
“People are really desperate for affordable housing at the moment,” Ms Francis said.
“To put it into perspective, I had a three-bedroom townhouse, an NRAS property in Griffin, listed for $280 per week and received 280 applications for it. Generally we get about 100 applicants for an NRAS property after it’s been advertised for a week or two.
Over the past few years, as rental supply has dwindled alongside rising demand, forcing prices up, Ms Francis said applications for NRAS homes have grown significantly.
“We have seen some major rent increases, so there’s not a lot of housing for people in the lower income bracket because everything has gone up,” she said.
“So, people on Centrelink payments are only getting about $500 to $600 per week – they can’t afford much more than $200 per week, and there’s just no housing that’s not NRAS in the bracket.”