Rents in Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens are unaffordable, while The Upper Hunter is the most affordable local government area (LGA) in regional NSW for renters, according to a new report released today.

The Affordable Housing Income Gap Report, released today (August 21) by Hunter-based Compass Housing, takes a new approach to the measurement of housing affordability for renters.

The Report establishes the amount of additional income a typical renting household needs to avoid housing stress on various types of dwellings in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. This amount is referred to as the Affordable Housing Income Gap (AHIG).

With housing stress kicking in when rents reach 30% of income, weekly median incomes in Port Stephens need to rise by $177 to avoid housing stress, while Lake Macquarie renters are better positioned, but still need an extra $50 per week in their pay packet.

The situation is worse for people trying to rent three-bedroom houses in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens with median rents above 30% of median household incomes.

Overall, Upper Hunter renters only pay 20% of their income in rent, making it the most affordable LGA in regional NSW. Northern NSW Coastal LGAs of Byron, Ballina and the Clarence Valley, are the least affordable in regional NSW.

Compass spokesperson Martin Kennedy said the findings across the three states prove housing stress isn’t just a problem for low-income households. In regional centres rents are lower than Sydney, but so are incomes.

“Even working people are struggling to afford suitable rental properties,” Mr Kennedy said.

“This can have a real impact on living standards because people in housing stress are less able to pay for other essentials like food, utilities, insurance, healthcare, childcare, and debt repayments,” he said.

“The steady decline of housing affordability for renters is part of a broader housing crisis driven by a combination of low interest rates, preferential tax treatment for investors, rapid population growth, artificial rationing of land supply, high transfer duties and, a prolonged failure to invest in social and affordable housing.”

The Report recommends the creation of a national housing plan with initiatives crossing all levels of government. They include:

  • The construction of 500,000 social and affordable housing dwellings in the next 10 years
  • Reviewing the tax and transfer system to strike a fairer balance between the level of support provided to investors, first home buyers and renters
  • Reforming state tenancy laws to provide greater security of tenure for renters and decrease demand for social housing.

Compass Housing is a not for profit community housing provider that manages more than 4,500 properties in NSW, Queensland and New Zealand. The report is available from