Rhianna King        May 2, 2012

Perth is the most expensive state capital after Sydney, but, in some consolation, sandgropers enjoy the highest standard of living of all the states.

That is the verdict of a report out today on the cost of living pressures facing households across Australia.

According to Prices these days!, released by AMP and the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, the cost of a ‘basket of goods’ – including food, alcohol, housing, recreation and education – in Perth was $69,227 as of December 2011.

This was $2199 less than Sydney, and slightly less than the territory capitals Darwin and Canberra.

The survey, which looked at prices, household spending and income levels, found Perth fared worst when it came to education costs – the second highest behind Adelaide.

But the report found that due to the city having higher incomes than other state capitals, Perth had the highest financial standard of living.

“The mining boom has no doubt played an important role in boosting the incomes of Perth households,” the report said.

AMP financial planner Claire Esmond said it was often overlooked that Perth’s high prices were matched by higher standard of living.

“Only the country’s territory capitals, Canberra and Darwin, enjoy higher living standards,” Ms Esmond said.

“It’s become popular to comment on how expensive life is but many of us ignore that incomes have risen faster than prices.  Looking at prices alone does not tell the full story – we need to view cost of living in the context of what we now earn.”

The report found average disposable incomes across Australia have increased by more than 200 per cent since 1984 and have grown 20 per cent beyond the cost of living.

The findings may not be of much comfort to low-income families however, with Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Snapshot Report highlighting the struggle to find affordable rental accommodation in Western Australia.

The report, which found only one per cent of Perth’s rental properties were affordable for households on minimum wage or a pension, listed Perth’s average rental property price as $565 a week.

Perth had less affordable housing available than Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and Tasmania but more than Canberra and Darwin and Western Australia’s North West had no rental housing that was affordable on a minimum wage.

Concerns over utility prices have also been raised this week after Alinta lifted gas prices, with findings showing Western Australians also pay Australia’s highest water prices, an average $1053 per bill, compared to $730 in Melbourne and $1039 in Sydney.

Low-income households have been hit the hardest with the Council of Social Service reporting low-income earners  lost money in the last financial year because of utility price hikes.

Opposition leader Mark McGowan said today the increased cost of living was the single largest issue Western Australians faced and highlighted the state’s Hardship Utility Grants Scheme which assisted struggling households.

Last year saw 16,159 people apply for help through the HUGS scheme, an increase of more than 90 per cent since 2010.

Mr McGowan called for the Barnett Government to commit to funding HUGS, which is not guaranteed funding in next year’s budget.

“Premier Colin Barnett must immediately commit to providing funding for the continuation of HUGS in the May budget,” Mr McGowan said.

The scheme costs approximately $6.2 million a year.

Read more: http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/perth-expensive–but-we-enjoy-the-best-standard-of-living-20120501-1xwvf.html#ixzz1tlWJAsOC