A hard-working couple have revealed the devastating reality of the country’s rent crisis after being left homeless, forced to live in a tent and left with “no choice” but to send their children away.
Jen* and her husband, both 30, earn a healthy $100,000 combined income, but that’s not enough to keep a roof over their heads or their family together.
The Gold Coast parents told FEMAIL they have unsuccessfully applied for 70 properties in the town and near Tweed Heads in the past four months.
“We are not the only people we know in this situation. The massive influx of people to the region has made it impossible to get a rental home,” she said.
“The crisis is not just in Sydney, it is very bad here on the Gold Coast, people need to know that.”
The couple have had to send their 11-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter to live with relatives “hours away” because they don’t want to expose them to life on the streets.
A Gold Coast couple has been forced to send their kids away and move into this place because they can’t find a place to rent
Mother, 30, is a support worker in training to become a nurse, and the father, also 30, is a tradie
“We don’t know when we’ll be able to see them again. They cry when we call them because they miss us, it’s heartbreaking,” she said.
It’s been a month, which feels like an eternity for the kids who have never been away from their loving mom and dad for more than a night or two.
They were initially displaced when their long-term rental was sold.
“Unfortunately, the buyers weren’t investors, so we had to move,” explains Jen.
They struggled to get a new house – so they signed a three-month lease for a short-term rent in the hope that they would have enough time to get their affairs in order.
But it wasn’t – and when the lease expired, the owners needed the small two-bedroom apartment at the back.
“We couldn’t get another rental, so we had no choice but to camp.”
The couple applied for 70 properties — including this two-bedroom apartment — but to no avail. This apartment was listed last month for $460 per week, the previous tenants paid only $285 per week
This duplex was on the market for $590 a week, the couple applied, but it was taken off the market within a week
The couple’s $500-a-week budget won’t net them much now that prices have risen — but they’re even being knocked back at one- and two-bedroom places.
“Usually you don’t hear anything or you have to constantly call them for an answer,” she said.
Realtors have told her that many homes already have “approved tenants” before the open houses.
“It’s frustrating and feels like a waste of time. Sometimes there are 30 or 40 people,” she said.
Jen, who is a support worker and studies nursing full-time, said she can’t afford to “bid more” on the properties.
The couple say the nights can be cold and when it rains “everything gets wet” (pictured, the tent they live in)
“We can afford more now, but I have to do my 1,000-hour internship soon, so we’re down to one income,” she said.
‘You can’t work and do an internship.’
She and her trading partner “still can’t believe they are homeless.”
They don’t have a refrigerator and gave up their Esky and cold food, after forgetting to put ice in it
“It’s unbelievable that the government is letting this happen, we’ve both worked hard, paid taxes and done the right things in life,” she said.
We don’t smoke, drink, gamble or use drugs. We just want to raise well-behaved children in a happy family and we can’t even do that.’
They had to buy the tent and other equipment when they found themselves living on the street, as they are not ‘campers’, and they had to be very discreet as they were not supposed to ‘live’ on the property.
“We thought it would only be for a few days or a week, but we’re still here,” she said.
The couple shiver through the nights and then have to get up at first light because the tent gets too hot.
They charge their phones at work and have even used their car to protect their tent from the elements.
“It was stormy the first eight days we were here, it was wet and gross,” she said.
When the cold front moved along the coast last week, they ‘frozen’.
“We didn’t know it was going to be this cold and it was so windy that night. Like a cyclone. I googled it and the wind was 22 mph. We parked our cars in front of the tent as a windbreak.’
This house was listed for $590 a week, but agents accepted an offer of ‘over $700’
They also learned a lot.
“The first week we didn’t communicate well and the Esky went without ice, all the meat came off, so we’re out of cold storage,” she said.
The couple hopes that their nightmare will soon come to an end.
“It feels like I’m spending all my time in college trying to find us a home.”
According to Core Logic Data, rents in the couple’s chosen areas have exploded.
A two-bedroom apartment they applied for was offered for $460, the previous tenants paid just $285.
The data suggests that even less desirable properties are being snapped up quickly – the unit had been on the market for nearly six months before being rented out at the lower price.
This time it was rented out in weeks.
The median cost of a two-bedroom home in Tweed Heads is $669,000, while the average rent is $600 per week.
They are not allowed to live in their camp, but thought they would be in and out in a week
The average rent for a three bedroom home in Tweed Heads is $790 per week.
The Housing Association predicted that rental costs, which were already up 17.6 percent for units and 14.6 percent in capitals last year, could now go even higher as supply fails to keep up with demand.
Nationally, housing vacancy is 1.1 percent, the same rate as Melbourne and Hobart, while it’s 1.3 percent in Sydney and a crushing 0.5 percent in Adelaide.
The return of migrants, students and tourists to Australia could lead to a worsening of vacancy rates.
“This imbalance will further exacerbate affordability and the rental crisis,” said Tom Devitt, HIA senior economist.
Estate agent shares tips for securing a rental property:
Adam Flynn, Victorian state director of the Coronis Real Estate Group, says there are three things tenants can do to improve their chances of a long-term lease.
1 – Pay as much as you can in advance – that is three months
2 – Personalize the application – Include a cover letter explaining what you like about the house. Tell them who you are, suggest your family be very specific about pets and children. Let them know about your personal situation. “They’re people, the more details the better.”
3 – Make sure that the application is completely filled out correctly and that your references are good. With the rental history for background checks. – user friendly. “If they have eight applications, it’s easier to continue with the right one, maybe not the best one.”
Some renters have revealed their frustrations in finding suitable or any kind of housing despite their clean rental records and good incomes.
People with children and pets often find it harder to get a lease through than other people.
Leo Patterson-Ross, CEO of NSW Tenants’ Union, told Daily Mail Australia that the government was under pressure to bring much-needed good news to tenants in the budget on Tuesday.
“This is a crucial budget to kick-start the recovery of the rental and housing system,” he said.
Mr Patterson-Ross said renting families are too often in crisis.
“We hear of people sleeping in cars, in makeshift homes that don’t provide proper protection or can be an unsafe or dangerous environment.”
*Name changed to keep family anonymous. If you think you can help them, please email firstname.lastname@example.org