High Costs: Leigh Watson.
ACT Shelter executive officer Leigh Watson. Photo: Graham Tidy

Moves by the ACT government to provide less expensive rental
options for tenants in social housing should be expanded further, policy
experts say.

Housing Minister Shane Rattenbury last week announced
reforms allowing tenants who previously paid 75 per cent of market rent
rates as part of the Affordable Rental Scheme to instead have rent
calculated based on their capacity to pay.

The plan will mean Housing ACT officials will assess tenants'
suitability for six rental levels using criteria such as household

ACT Shelter executive officer Leigh Watson said affordable
housing programs were less effective in the Canberra market due to high
private rental costs.

''Paying 75 per cent or 85 per cent of market rent is not affordable, because it is already totally inflated,'' Ms Watson said.

''What we say, and most people working in the sector say, it
is not affordable housing, it's just not-so-expensive housing. We'd like
to see this kind of rent-banding model rolled out to the other
affordable housing programs.''

The organisation advocates for people who are on low to
moderate incomes in the territory, as well as those who suffer from or
are at risk of homelessness.

''What is often quoted is that people shouldn't pay more than
30 per cent of their income on housing, and that's all well and good
but if you are earning $100,000 then paying 30 per cent is OK, but when
you're earning $40,000, you aren't left with much for other living

Ms Watson said existing programs did not take into account
the distances tenants in cheaper housing often had to travel for work,
as well as factors such as disability and family pressures.

The changes were welcomed by the ACT Council of Social Service.

The ACT's Affordable Rental Scheme was introduced in 2011 for
eligible tenants aged 65 or over who were having difficulty sustaining
their tenancies due to income or social factors.

While the government is yet to outline the cost of the
changes, Ms Watson said they should apply to about 320 affordable
housing dwellings, and more properties brought into the system.

Research expected to be released later this year shows retail
workers and women in the community sector could face housing stress
over rents and mortgage repayments in retirement.

''It's people working in supermarkets, people looking after
your kids. It's not just those at the pointy end with a range of
issues,'' Ms Watson said.