Tourism affects rental affordability
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.
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