Helen Howell plans to pitch a tent outside her mother’s home in Launceston if she cannot find a place to live next month.
The 48-year-old Tasmanian has applied for 10 rentals in the past three weeks, but discovered many of them had been snapped up before they were even opened for inspection.
“We were looking for whole houses,” she told AAP. “It’s crazy.”
“I have a tent and a really good sleeping bag that my brother gave me. If worse is worse, I will pitch a tent across the road (from my mother’s house).”
From the riverside town of Launceston to the dirt red towns of Pilbara, Australia is hit by a rent crunch. The pressure is most severe for people on low incomes who depend on social welfare services.
The national vacancy rate has fallen to a multi-year low of just 1 percent amid an increase in rental demand, according to Domain’s latest vacancy rate report, creating a landlord market.
Rental markets in the cities of Hobart and Launceston in Tasmania are among the most expansive, an issue that Howell witnesses first hand.
With a weekly budget of $200, Ms. Howell says she visited a “terribly awful” rental in the back of a house that was damp and had no heating.
On the other side — and end — of the country, social worker Angela Sinclair says she has no intention of staying in the western Australian town of Karatha for long, even though she has lived there with her partner and two children for nearly two years.
With so few rents available, the family pays about $750 a week for their three-bedroom, one-bathroom home in the 1960s.
“It is certainly nothing fancy,” said Mrs. Sinclair.
“It has an old school kitchen, an electric stove and some cupboards are missing, so this is not like the house you get in Perth next to the newly furnished beach.”
Prices of goods and services are also significantly higher in resource cities such as Karratha, which makes daily expenses a challenge, especially for those who are not on the high wages associated with the mining and oil and gas sectors.
“I don’t think you really understand how much that really affects you until you get here,” said Mrs. Sinclair.
“Rent isn’t just what gets expensive, it’s the food, the nursery, everything else that comes with that.”
With international workers and travelers returning to Australia en masse after the easing of travel restrictions due to the Corona virus, demand for rents is expected to rise in many cities, driving up rental prices. Regional areas, which have seen an influx of people during the pandemic, report a similar trend.
The problem is inevitable in my state capitals Sydney and Melbourne, where vacancy rates remain tight. The top of Australia doesn’t offer a respite either.
“The Northern Territory has a huge problem of unaffordability for rent,” said Peter MacMillan, NT Shelter executive.
Rents have increased by $140 a week over the past two years, with the average cost of renting a home in the Northern Territory rising from $420 a week in September 2019 to $570 a week currently, according to the data.
“More and more people in the Northern Territory are under rent pressure,” MacMillan said.
“There is not enough affordable social housing in the Northern Territory and we need to address that.”
In the Northern Territory, about half of families rent, well above the national average of 30 percent.
Macmillan says it’s not just low-income earners that are affected. Professionals also find it difficult to secure residency, with some reporting that it could potentially affect their ability to stay and work in the NT.
Australian Associated Press