YOUNG adults are experiencing very high rates of housing stress, with 44 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 years unable to pay their rent on time, according to new ANU data.

Prof Matthew Gray

The findings paint a disturbing picture for renters and young adults when it comes to housing stress, says Prof Matthew Gray, who is the co-author of the study that surveyed more than 3200 on housing stress.

The survey found that the percentage of Australians unable to meet their regular housing costs jumped from 6.9 per cent in April, to 15.1 per cent in May. In other words, Australians who can't pay their rent or mortgage on time has more than doubled due to COVID-19.

“[But] young Australians are still more likely to be in housing stress once income and socioeconomic status is controlled for, suggesting that there is more to housing stress than just income for this group. This is because their accumulated savings and wealth are likely to be low," Prof Gray says.

“Our findings show the level of housing stress is substantially higher for renters than mortgage holders, [too]."

The survey also examined policies introduced by Australian governments and banks to protect renters and mortgage holders who are unable to make their payments.

“These policies are helping with 22.2 per cent of mortgage holders being successful to reduce or freeze their mortgage payments,” Prof Gray says.

“Just over one-in-10 renters have been able to reduce or freeze their payments.

“Everyone needs a safe and secure housing and a roof over their heads. If incomes start to fall at the bottom end of the income distribution then many Australians will be on shaky ground.”

The study shows the number of Australians aged 18 to 24 who experienced higher levels of housing stress increased threefold between April and May – from 10.3 per cent to 27.5 per cent.

“We also found an almost threefold increase in housing stress for Australians aged 35 to 44 over the same period, with the proportion rising from 5.9 per cent to 19.1 per cent,” says study co-author Prof Nicholas Biddle.

“Clearly the COVID-19 pandemic has put lots of young Australians under incredible stress. And this is while they are also likely dealing with other major stresses in their lives like potential loss of income."

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