Eight in 10 Sydneysiders think cost of living pressures have intensified over the past year and just one in five say they could find affordable housing in their local area.
An Ipsos poll of Sydney residents for advocacy group the Committee for Sydney has drawn attention to voter anxiety over personal finances ahead of next week’s state budget.
Most affected were those aged over 50 – in that Sydney age cohort 87 per cent feel cost of living pressures had worsened during the past year compared with 77 per cent of 18-34 year-olds and 81 per cent of 35-49 year olds (the city-wide the average of 82 per cent).
Dr Shane Oliver, the Sydney-based chief economist at AMP Capital, said that while the overall rate of inflation was low, consumers are especially sensitive to price increases in necessities like electricity, petrol and health services.
“The items that seem to be going up in price are necessities and most people associate them with the cost of living,” he said.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said next Tuesday’s budget would include measures to ease cost of living pressures. It will fund “specialist cost of living help desks” at Service NSW offices to help eligible residents get government support for electricity bills, car registration and other programs.
“We also announced a toll relief program for people who spend the most on tolled roads and that is due to kick-off in July,” Mr Perrottet said.
One factor driving voter concerns about living costs is the low rate of wages growth.
Recent state budgets have consistently overestimated how much pay packets will rise. Two years ago the 2016-17 NSW budget predicted wages growth would be 2.75 per cent this financial year. A year later the budget papers downgraded that forecast to 2.25 per cent and that was revised down again in December to just 2 per cent. The latest Wage Price Index showed growth of only 2.1 per cent in the year to March.
Labor’s Treasury spokesman, Ryan Park, said wages in NSW have “flat-lined” as families faced more road tolls, higher electricity bills and rising housing costs.
“The government needs to use this budget to address some of those challenges,” he said.
Eamon Waterford, acting chief executive of the Committee for Sydney, said Sydney’s congestion and sprawl meant transportation costs are higher here than in some comparable cities.
“Sydney is by no means the only global city with a high cost of living, but we need to ensure that it is an equitable and affordable city for Sydneysiders, including those on low income,” he said.
The committee’s annual poll of 1000 Sydney residents found only 20 per cent felt it would be somewhat or very easy to find affordable housing in their local area. Just 18 per cent of respondents in the eastern part of Sydney said they could find affordable housing in their local area, while further west the share was 22 per cent.
Mr Waterford said providing more affordable housing close to jobs, and encouraging jobs west to near where people live “is vital to rebalancing Sydney”.
The separate Ipsos Issues Monitor for NSW, which asks respondents to select the three most important issues facing the community, shows respondents think the cost of housing is the biggest challenge facing the state.
In the March quarter, 44 per cent of respondents in NSW rated housing as one of the nation’s most important challenges compared with 29 per cent five years ago.