Tourism af­fects rental af­ford­abil­ity

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

A re­view into the first year of a lo­cal hous­ing ad­vo­cacy group has found the pop­u­lar­ity of the Mar­garet River re­gion con­tin­ues to drive rental costs be­yond the reach of al­most all low-in­come earn­ers.

The Just Home re­port pre­pared by hous­ing ad­vo­cacy of­fi­cer Katie Gray and Shire of Au­gusta-Mar­garet River coun­cil­lor Naomi God­den re­viewed the first year of the part­time role, funded by ratepay­ers to ad­dress short­falls for eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged res­i­dents in the re­gion.

The project had its gen­e­sis in con­cerns about 80-100 peo­ple in the shire were con­sid­ered home­less on any given night, with the num­ber de­rived from State home­less­ness ra­tios ap­plied to the shire’s res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion.

Just Home’s def­i­ni­tion of home­less­ness drew from the Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics as “be­ing with­out a home that pro­vides a sense of se­cu­rity, sta­bil­ity, pri­vacy, safety, and the abil­ity to con­trol liv­ing space” and in­cluded peo­ple sleep­ing rough, in ve­hi­cles, car­a­van parks, and hos­tels.

Forty-one res­i­dents sought hous­ing help from Just Home dur­ing its first year, half of whom had lived in the re­gion for 10 years or more, and with some hav­ing chil­dren. Men were in the slight ma­jor­ity of clients, with 24 re­spon­dents com­pared with 17 women.

Men­tal health con­cerns, al­co­hol and drug ad­dic­tion, back­grounds in fam­ily vi­o­lence, and dis­abil­ity needs were iden­ti­fied in a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of clients.

Fif­teen clients ex­pe­ri­enced “chronic home­less­ness” of more than six months.

Couch-surf­ing, liv­ing in car­a­vans, and clients fac­ing threat of evic­tion were all con­sid­er­a­tions.

“Fig­ures in­di­cate par­tic­u­lar dif­fi­cul­ties in ac­cess­ing af­ford­able hous­ing for older males aged 40-65 who were ca­sual labour­ers in phys­i­cal in­dus­tries and strug­gling to be em­ployed, and aged pen­sions 60plus who, due to re­la­tion­ship break­down or death of a part­ner, are now bud­get­ing as a sin­gle per­son and can­not af­ford ba­sic rental ac­com­mo­da­tion,” the re­port said.

Cen­sus data from 2016 put the re­gion’s me­dian rental price at $300 a week, though most fam­ily homes rented for a min­i­mum of $400, which was “se­verely un­af­ford­able” for low-in­come earn­ers and res­i­dents on wel­fare.

The hol­i­day sec­tor, in­clud­ing growth in Airbnb-style book­ings, con­trib­uted to ris­ing rents.

An Angli­care snap­shot of this year’s hous­ing trends found none of the 144 pri­vate rentals ad­ver­tised across the Capes were within bud­get for sin­gle par­ents, or those on aged pen­sions or dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits. There was also an eight-year wait­ing list for the Au­gusta-Mar­garet River Shire’s 112 pub­lic hous­ing op­tions, the Just Home re­port found. “The hous­ing ad­vo­cacy off- icer ob­served that hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity is af­fected by sea­sonal rental oc­cu­pancy, high oc­cu­pancy of rental prop­er­ties, and of­ten higher rental prices in warmer months due to peak lev­els of tourists and sea­sonal work­ers in hos­pi­tal­ity, vine­yard and agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries,” the re­port said.

“We also sus­pect in­for­mal short­stay ac­com­mo­da­tion has re­duced avail­abil­ity of spare rooms, con­verted sheds, semi-de­tached dwellings, and small cot­tages for lo­cal sin­gle peo­ple re­quir­ing low-cost rentals.” A lack of cri­sis ac­com­mo­da­tion in the re­gion was also iden­ti­fied as a se­ri­ous short­fall.

■ What do you think? Email let­ters to ed­i­tor@am­r­times.com.au.

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