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Media Release: Asylum seekers struggle with high rents

30 August 20130 comments

Asylum seeker families are struggling to make ends meet because of the high cost of private rental housing in Melbourne’s suburbs.

An asylum seeker family on a bridging visa receives a maximum of just $770 a fortnight in benefits payments.

New figures released this week revealed rental costs for small units even in Melbourne’s most affordable suburbs are around $500 a fortnight, leaving families with just $135 a week to cover food, clothing, bills and transport.

And the median rent across Melbourne has remained around $380 a week for the past few years.

“Obviously asylum seekers, like many other Australians, are finding it difficult financially. They receive 89 per cent of the benefits paid to ordinary Centrelink Newstart clients and they do not have the right to work. With rent as high as it is, many of them find it hard to make ends meet,” said AMES Chief Executive Cath Scarth.

Research by the Australian Housing and Urban research Institute (AHURI)has found that households spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing and who are among the lowest 40% of income earners suffer stress.

Rental affordability has dropped to just 9.5 per cent of properties in the west of Melbourne, according to Department of Human Services figures. This means that in 90.5 per cent of rental households in Melbourne’s west, the cost of rent is more than a third of the total household income.

AMES has developed strategies to help asylum seekers and refugees who find themselves in this situation.

“We as AMES educate clients on basic ways to live cheaply and cost effectively. We use community guides to set our clients up with links in to their communities, showing them where to shop cheaply. We also encourage share accommodation to help bring down the cost of living,” Ms Scarth said.

Another issue newly arrived people seeking accommodation face is the misperception that they are bad tenants.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. We have had very positive responses from landlords who have leased out properties to AMES clients,” Ms Scarth said.

“Some owners have been reluctant to lease their properties out to refugees and asylum seekers but typically, they are very respectful people who are reliable, courteous and appreciative. In the overwhelming majority of cases, when landlords give asylum seekers a go they turn out to be very good tenants,” she said. 

For images, interviews and more information please contact AMES Media Advisor, Laurie Nowell at or  9938 46031 or 0498 196 500.