Brisbane: People facing challenge to afford basic living cost

Queensland has emerged as the epicenter of Australia’s cost-of-living crisis, particularly in Brisbane, where residents are grappling with surging prices in rent, energy, insurance, and health expenses. A study conducted by the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) has unveiled the challenges faced by low-income families in meeting basic living costs, with some forced to make difficult choices between keeping the lights on and providing food for their families.

The Living Affordability in Queensland study indicated that housing costs constituted 40% or more of total household expenditure for many surveyed individuals. Brisbane led the nation in price increases, witnessing spikes in fuel costs (nearly 14%), electricity (12.7%), rent (7.8%), transport (7.4%), and housing (6.6%) between August 2022 and August 2023. The overall inflation rate in the city stood at 6.3%, slightly exceeding the national level.

The rising costs come at a time when Queensland is ranked as the worst-performing state economy in Australia, according to CommSec’s quarterly assessment data. Opposition leader David Crisafulli referred to the cost rises in Queensland as making the state “ground zero in the housing crisis.”

The QCOSS report painted a challenging picture, indicating that only one of the surveyed sample groups could meet basic living costs, while others were either in debt or struggling to make ends meet. Working families with children were reportedly facing a weekly deficit of around $200 in their attempts to afford essential items.

The study underscored the severe shortage of affordable rentals and low vacancy rates, increasing the risk of homelessness for many Queensland residents. Premier Steven Miles announced that the government would soon release a comprehensive housing plan to address these challenges. Measures already implemented include freezing public transport and car registration fee increases in 2024 and providing energy rebates to alleviate household living pressures.

QCOSS Chief Executive Aimee McVeigh emphasized the need for further assistance, urging the government to develop a housing plan that addresses both immediate and future needs for social and affordable housing. She also called for an increase in income support payments to ensure the safety, shelter, and well-being of Queenslanders, proposing a rate of at least $78 a day. The ongoing struggle with the cost of living in Queensland highlights the urgency for comprehensive and targeted policy interventions to support vulnerable households in the state.

The Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) report sheds light on the acute challenges faced by many Queenslanders, especially those in the low-income bracket, as they grapple with the increasing cost of living. The stark reality presented in the study underscores the pressing need for comprehensive and targeted interventions to alleviate the financial strain on families and individuals in the state.

Brisbane’s leading position in national price hikes, coupled with its inflation rates exceeding the national average, highlights the severity of the situation. The opposition leader’s characterization of Queensland as “ground zero in the housing crisis” underscores the urgency for action to address the root causes of the affordability crisis, particularly in housing, fuel, and essential services.

The QCOSS study’s findings reveal a troubling trend where working families, despite their efforts, are faced with a significant deficit in their budgets, making choices between fundamental necessities. The risk of homelessness looms large due to a shortage of affordable rentals and low vacancy rates, painting a dire picture for those struggling to secure stable housing.

Premier Steven Miles’ announcement of an upcoming comprehensive housing plan is a step in the right direction. However, the success of such measures will depend on their effectiveness in providing immediate relief and addressing the long-term challenges of housing affordability.

The freeze on public transport and car registration fee increases, as well as energy rebates, demonstrates the government’s recognition of the need to ease living pressures on households. However, the call from QCOSS for additional support, including raising income support payments and developing a more robust housing plan, emphasizes the scale of the problem and the necessity for a multifaceted approach.

As Queensland grapples with its economic challenges, the government’s commitment to releasing a comprehensive housing plan is a positive sign. The success of this plan will hinge on its ability to create affordable housing solutions, address social and economic disparities, and provide tangible support to those most affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

In the broader context of Australia’s economic landscape, the Queensland scenario serves as a microcosm of the larger affordability challenges faced by many Australians. The outcomes of policy initiatives in Queensland could potentially set a precedent for how other regions across the country approach and mitigate the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on their citizens.

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