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From city to coast, the rental crisis takes its toll

The shortage of affordable housing is hitting Australians from all areas and walks of life., Charlotte Dyer, Connor Hunter and Audrey Hatwell report.

The rental affordability and availability crisis is hammering even those with work and good rental histories and tenant support services are struggling to meet the enormous demand for help. Farah Farouque, the director of community engagement for Tenants Victoria, told The Burne the organisation was overwhelmed with people in need of its financial planning, counselling and advocacy services as huge rent increases were reported across the state.

"Since the 1 of July 2022, we've seen increases from $30 a week to as much as $480 a week," Ms Farouque said. "The problem with the affordability housing challenge is it's not going to be solved overnight, it comes from long neglect."

"We've seen people move into caravan parks."

According to a Reserve Bank of Australia report on rental stress, renters on lower incomes tend to be more vulnerable to cost of living increases due to spending a large proportion of their income on basic living expenses.

The Burne spoke to Victorians on the front lines of the housing crisis.

Jade Sinclair said she had to take drastic steps to afford her rent, reports Charlotte Dyer.

"I actually had to drop out of university to afford rent because I was working 38 hours," Ms Sinclair said. "I wasn't able to keep up with my uni work and the expectations that were required of me, so I did have to drop out."

Demand for rental properties is intense across Victoria. (Photo: Charlotte Dyer)

Ms Sinclair says she had found it impossible to balance studying and work. She was making only a minor's wage when she moved out and was working constantly to afford her rent. She was not left with enough time to keep up with university work. "My 38 hours of work was going completely to paying rent, paying utilities and then food and ... my car as well," Ms Sinclair said. "If you can afford rent, that's not even a third of the price that you're going to be having to pay because everything else is just as expensive." Ms Farouque said single renters were among those hit the hardest. “Single people have a lot of associated expenses, they can’t share (expenses) across the household,” Ms Farouque said.

Jo Rowland is among those facing housing pressures despite having recent financial security, reports Connor Hunter.

Farah Farouque warns that middle-aged workers, especially essential workers on lower incomes, are also being affected by the housing crisis. “Another thing we are seeing is people of a later age having to move into share houses,” she said. Jo Rowland, a middle-aged university student who has returned to study after more than 20 years as a commercial fisherman, recently separated from his wife and has moved to Melbourne and into a share house with a single mother and her infant child. "[My ex-partner and I] are selling the house but that hasn’t got much action, I’ve also had to put my boat up for sale which isn’t selling either,” he said. “Interest rates are too high to buy a house and who has the money to buy a boat.”

“I am tossing up between deferring studies to work full time or getting a new job and working 4-5 days a week to study online."

Average rents on the Mornington Peninsula are now around $600 per week, reports Audrey Hatwell

Traditionally, the Peninsula was an area renters could migrate to to flee high prices of metropolitan Melbourne, but no longer: according to Real Estate Investar, the average weekly rent for a townhouse in Mornington falls only $5 short of the rent of a townhouse in Hawthorn. Hawthorn is approximately seven kilometres from the CBD, whereas Mornington is 72 kilometres.

Farah Farouque said the rental crisis was “not confined to the metropolitan areas”. “People used to go to ... regional areas to find an affordable rental, but that's also been squeezed out, as are the affordable outer suburbs. We’ve seen people moving into caravan parks.”

Ms Farouque said many people had migrated from the city during the pandemic. As people with access to more resources moved to regional areas, affordable rentals had been swallowed up and rental prices had surged. Vacancy rates on the Mornington Peninsula have been at a record low, currently sitting at about 0.55 per cent, meaning many tenants are frustrated in their search as landlords pick and choose among lengthy lists of applicants.

Stacey Densley, a landlord in Mount Eliza, said her rental property was occupied extremely quickly. “I had a lot of people contact me.” Ms Densley said she had felt a lot of pressure to raise the rent in the last few months to cover her own non-discretionary expenses. Airbnbs are also exacerbating the shortage as many former long-term rental properties are instead offered as short-term tourist accomodation. Ms Densley estimated around a third of Peninsula rental properties were being offered as Airbnbs.

1 Comment

Henry Gilmour
Henry Gilmour
May 26, 2023

Love your work, Connor Hunter :)


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