AFFORDABLE rentals on the state’s North Coast are increasingly few and far between, but the continued rise of the Airbnb-model now sees 3000-plus homes sit empty while low-income and government-assisted tenants are shut out.
Anglicare’s latest Housing Affordability Snapshot says the region’s rental crisis has worsened as property owners in Ballina, Byron Bay, and the Tweed are incentivised to target short-term holidaymakers through web-based booking companies instead of potential long-term renters.
The Anglicare report, released on Sunday, showed available North Coast rental properties were in steep decline (down from 795 in 2017 to 660 in 2018) with all family groups on income support, and single households on minimum wage, likely to struggle to find housing for themselves and their children.
Residents and local Councillors in North Coast towns have also complained about the ‘Airbnb effect’ being bad for local accommodation businesses and local culture.
“Many local people have had to move on from the area because of the reduced number of long term rentals and the increasing cost of renting,” says Byron Community Centre general manager Paul Spooner.
“Holiday rental accommodation has been a factor in Byron Bay for many years. The real concern is non-resident property owners using online platforms to mismanage holiday letting properties.
Mr Spooner said locals were asking state government to consider legislation that gives more powers to local councils to manage the holiday letting industry so that negative impacts may be addressed.
“Housing needs to be set aside for local workers, especially those not on high incomes,” he said.
“This may be required to be provided through a local housing trust to ensure the housing remains affordable into the future.”
Others say the North Coast housing issue is not as serious as it seems.
“We haven’t had very much of that at all, we don’t have the same pressures of Byron Bay,” said Ballina mayor David Wright.
“Considering it’s the coast, I would say there is a good variety of houses. But while we haven’t necessarily seen these things it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
Every year Anglicare Australia takes a snapshot of the thousands of properties listed for rent on realestate.com.au on one weekend in March or April and assesses whether each property is affordable and suitable for 14 types of households on low income.
The 2018 results were mixed across regional NSW, but a central theme was ever-present: There’s a lack of available, affordable, and suitable housing in the bush, and people on very low incomes are having to sacrifice other essentials just to have a roof over their head.
It was the same story last year, with regional circumstances exacerbated by a higher unemployment rate, lesser public infrastructure, services, and transport options, a long wait for public housing, and entrenched health and social issues.
NSW Federation of Housing Associations chief executive, Wendy Hayhurst, said the report showed that chronic rental stress had “spread its tentacles to almost every area of the state”.
“Today’s report from Anglicare shows it’s biting hard in regional areas from the Far North Coast right through to the Northern Tablelands and the Riverina,” Ms Hayhurst said.
“Even in towns like Tamworth, Wagga and Goulburn a job seeker on Newstart cannot find a single affordable place to rent while they look for work.”
NSW Labor’s spokeswoman for Social Housing, Tania Mihailuk said government had failed to address the housing crisis in NSW despite an increase in housing supply.
Labor has pledged a full audit of all publicly owned land, creating an Affordable Housing Land Register to identify land that can be fast tracked for the development of affordable housing and mandating Affordable Housing targets of between 15 and 25 percent on all privately developed and Government-owned land.
Orana, Central West and the Far West
But the distance between crucial services, public transport gaps, and the cost of running a car meant many properties were not suitable for low-income earners.
The median weekly rent for a two-bedroom house in the Central West (including Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo and Mudgee) was $270-$290 per week, and $223.30 in Broken Hill.
There were no affordable and appropriate options for any single person reliant on Youth Allowance or Newstart Allowance, even in shared accommodation, with limited options for families with children who were supported by a government payment.
A central theme is ever-present: There’s a lack of available, affordable, and suitable housing in the bush, and people on very low incomes are having to sacrifice other essentials just to have a roof over their head.
“While there are more affordable options in Western NSW than in metropolitan areas, the lack of public transport available between more regional areas and even within regional hubs mean that affordable accommodation can mean isolation or heavy reliance on a personal vehicle,” the report read.
“The consequences of a housing shortage have long-term effects on vulnerable children, young people and families, contributing to poor health and educational outcomes as well as the breakdown of families and relationships.”
South East and capital region
Single aged pensions stood to be impacted the most by current conditions.
“South-East NSW’s population is older overall, yet there are few options in the private rental market for people reliant on the Age Pension, particularly single people,” the report read.
“The assumption underlying the Age Pension, that an older family has purchased and paid off the home in which they live and so do not have ongoing rental costs, can no longer be relied upon and this trend is increasing as housing becomes more unaffordable for many.
“Not only do older people require affordable accommodation, but it needs to be safe and appropriate to their needs and well-linked to community and health resources.”
The median weekly rent for a to-bedroom house in the Capital Region is around $280-$300 per week.
Riverina and Murray
The median weekly rent for a two-bedroom house in the Riverina (including Wagga Wagga, Albury and Griffith) was $258-$285.20.
There were limited options for families with children who were supported by a government payment and only 11 properties affordable to a parent with one child supported by Newstart Allowance, all but one in smaller regional towns.
“Without family support in these areas such a household would be isolated and risk losing eligibility for income support at all if they moved from an area with better unemployment,” the report read.
“Other properties affordable to single parents or couple families supported by Centrelink also tended to be away from the larger regional hubs.”
While the average rent in the region fell to around $310 per week, making more properties affordable for those on minimum wages, people living around Tamworth, Armidale and Moree on income support payments were still priced out, with very few properties available and suitable.
“Employment in and around the major centres is predominantly available in those traditionally lowerpaid sectors of agriculture, retail, and health care and social assistance,” the report said.
“While some areas are experiencing a net population drain, others are experiencing a net gain.
“Both trends have impacts on the availability of jobs and thereby the capacity of households to absorb higher housing costs.”
Hunter and Mid Coast
Housing availability, meanwhile, went down everywhere (between 7.4pc and 33.3pc) except in Taree,l where it rose by 25pc.
“For young people on Newstart or Youth Allowance, this is the seventh year where there are no private rental properties affordable or appropriate across the Hunter and Mid Coast region.
“As a result, this cohort are often homeless or “couch surfers”, adding to overcrowded housing situations.”