Sunrise host Monique Wright has revealed that she has searched 30 rental properties but failed to secure a home amid Australia’s deepening rent crisis.
The job vacancies rate in Sydney and Melbourne fell to just 1 per cent in January, a record low for both markets.
“We’ve been researching lately, looking at 30 properties,” Wright, 49, told hosts David Koch and Natalie Barr.
It’s awful. It’s absolutely awful,” the announcer continued with a gasp of shock.
‘You see it.’ People are desperate. We were desperate.
“At every price point, exactly,” Barr agreed.
“Amazing,” said Kochi, visibly shocked.
The national vacancy rate is 0.8 per cent, with people in Perth and Adelaide experiencing the narrowest rental market in the country at just 0.3 per cent.
Families struggling to find a home, and some forced to live in tents or sleep in cars, will take no comfort in knowing that renting a property in Australia hasn’t been that difficult since the Great Depression.
The country’s rent crisis is so dire that housing experts say official records show no similar shortage of available rents since the 1930s.
The only real reference point for what is happening in the rental market now is the global social catastrophe that followed the Wall Street Crash of 1929 – the longest and deepest depression of the 20th century.
Landlords in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, have been among the biggest beneficiaries of an increasingly tight rental market as migrants and international students come back again.
Shocking images have gone viral of dozens of potential tenants coming to auctions and inspections in some of Sydney’s most desirable suburbs.
Lines snaked around the block to see properties in Zetland, Coogee and Randwick, with up to 70 people vying for some apartments.
NSW Tenants Association chief executive Leo Patterson-Ross said that while broader economic conditions 90 years ago would have been vastly different, the reference to the Great Depression was a workable one with higher rental prices.
“We really have to go back and look at periods like the Great Depression to find similar situations for renters in Australia right now,” said Patterson-Ross.
We are clearly not in the Great Depression. But we have to go back this far because we haven’t seen this kind of large-scale public experiment with the system going wrong.
The higher interest rates have been passed on to the tenants by the landlords and rates continue to rise to counter the level of desperation.
The tenants claim that they have no power against the landlords to increase rents or evict them. Some of those who cannot find a home feel in physical danger in addition to the normal psychological anguish of being subjected to such economic stress.
City dwellers moving into regional areas are squeezing the already tight rental market in those areas, displacing local residents.
Properties used as short-term rentals and vacation homes that sit empty most of the year are making shortages even worse.
Professor Goran said that it is not only the low-income people who are facing the crisis.
“Especially in the aftermath of floods and wildfires, we’ve heard reports of professionals being unable to access any decent place where they live,” she said.
They need to take refuge in motel rooms, friends and family and then back to a hotel, maybe a tavern room for a while.
“It has affected professionals with secure jobs but in terms of sheer numbers, the biggest problem is low-income tenants.”
The higher earners were also taking the moderately priced rents that might once have been within the reach of the lower wage earners but are now out of reach for them.
International students have been returning to Australia after the pandemic hit, and rooms that were let out on the inland borders have been converted into work-from-home offices in the cities.
It was very easy, said Mr. Patterson Ross, for tenants to be evicted by landlords who knew they could get a better rate than their tenants.
“We really had an imbalance, an unfair rental market that was built endemic to have a short supply of really affordable homes,” he said.
Then on top of that, the various changes arising from Covid have highlighted and exacerbated a lot of these issues.
Sunrise host Monique Wright (pictured) revealed she had searched 30 rental properties but failed to find one amid Australia’s deepening rent crisis
Sunrise hosts Natalie Barr and David Koch were shocked by their co-hosts’ revelation that despite viewing 30 rental properties, they had failed to secure a home.
Mr. Patterson-Ross said that the profile of who hired and for how long has changed in recent years.
“People are renting for longer and there is no expectation that they will buy soon,” he said. “The single largest group to rent in NSW is families with children.”
Patterson Ross cited a grandmother in a one-bedroom unit whose daughter and grandson were evicted from their home when the rent increased by $100 a week.
The daughter and grandson were sleeping on the grandmother’s floor until the landlord found out and they had to move again.
“People make a lot of different sacrifices and sometimes families get together in a two-bedroom unit that sleeps six or seven people,” Patterson-Ross said.
“They’re moving in and they think it’s only going to be a week or two while they find a place, but 20 or 30 applications after that they still haven’t found a home and they’re still crowded together.”
Patterson-Ross said a “major shift” was needed to treat housing as an essential service – like food, water, energy and health care – rather than a means of investment.
“In those other industries, what you find is delivery, result, is the primary focus, and investment is a means to an end,” he said.
“In housing, we got financing wrong and investment strategy for housing is the primary focus and main consideration.
“Housing people is seen as a lucky by-product and that’s why we ended up with things like a million empty homes at the last census.”
Professor Juran said the problem could be fixed but the current rental system was not fit for purpose and more public housing had to be built.
Better protections had to be put in place to provide longer tenures and protect tenants from unfair price hikes and evictions.
New housing projects should include land for social and affordable housing, and the government should provide more rental subsidies to low-income earners.
Patterson Ross also wanted to see more social housing for low-income people provided by the government.
“We’ve really relied on the private market to build and supply these things for a long time in a relatively lightly regulated way,” he said.
We’re starting to see some good indications from the federal government and governments across Australia but not at a scale that will actually address the problem.
The longer we wait to start addressing the problem, the more difficult it will be.
Australia’s housing crisis set to get worse (potential renters outside a unit in Bondi earlier this year)