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New research from NCOSS has revealed that NSW residents were already struggling with the cost of living before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

  • More than one-third (38%) of respondents reported paying over a third of their income on housing costs, and 20% reported paying over 40% of their income on housing.
  • Over a quarter (26%) reported having been unable to pay utility bills on time.
  • Almost one fifth (19%) reported being unable to make mortgage or rent payments on time, and 21% reported not making minimum payments on credit card bills.
  • Single parents and couples with children were the household types who reported the highest rates of housing stress (68% and 45% respectively); while private renters and those paying off a mortgage were the household tenures most likely to report being in housing stress.
  • Social housing tenants and those renting privately were more likely to have experienced financial hardship during the previous 12 months.

The survey of 730 people on low to middle incomes across NSW, designed by the University of Technology’s Institute of Public Policy and Governance, found that cost of living pressures in 2019 were forcing households to take extreme measures.

The survey results show that housing costs were the ‘devouring monster’ of weekly budgets. People reported pawning possessions, not heating or cooling their homes and going without meals to make ends meet.

NCOSS CEO, Joanna Quilty said the results of the survey highlighted just how tough it has been for some people in NSW, with the COVID-19 pandemic now making matters worse.

“Our findings show that for many people in our community on low and even middle incomes, cost of living pressures in NSW have forced them to make extremely difficult decisions,” Ms Quilty said.

“We have seen people resorting to desperate measures like not heating their homes, pawning possessions and going without food to make ends meet.

“It’s not just those on Newstart or in social housing who are impacted; people in the workforce, on moderate and middle incomes, can also be struggling to get by

“Not only does this leave them in extremely precarious positions, it also acts as a brake on economic activity - which is why the NSW Government must act now to help these people get back on their feet.

“And this was happening before the economic and health impacts of COVID-19 occurred, which experts tell us will be particularly devastating for people on low incomes.

“Already we are seeing an increase in demand on our non-government organisations who provide support, but who often don’t have the necessary resources to expand capacity and meet growing need.”

In response to the survey findings and the impact of COVID-19, NCOSS is calling on the NSW Government to introduce measures to support the most vulnerable, bolster the social services sector, and grow jobs in the community by:

  • Boosting social and affordable housing through the delivery of 5,000 additional social housing units per annum, and similar for affordable housing;
  • Establishing a $30 million Resilient Communities - Support and Connect fund to supplement existing programs and enable small to medium-sized organisations, like neighbourhood centres, domestic violence services and others, embedded in their local communities, to meet rising demand; and
  • Establishing a NSW Institute for the Social Services Industry (NISSI) as a partnership between the NSW Government, NCOSS and an academic institution, and involving NSW TAFE, regional universities and the community sector to develop the industry, grow the workforce and meet current and future demand.

To access the research, visit here.

To find out more about NCOSS’ Cost of Living recommendations, visit here.

To find out more about NCOSS, visit:

Media contact: Nick Trainor 0407 078 138