Vanessa Royal-Gray and her husband Alistair need a house for five children and a dog, but fear that a trailer park will soon be their only option.
- Low vacancy rates and rent increases may force some Darwin residents to step in
- Leading Affordable Housing Organization Says Some Rent Increases Have Been “Ineligible”
- NT government says its land liberation plan will attract private investment in affordable housing
The family have filled at least 50 rental applications since December last year, after finding out their landlord would sell their home in the northern suburbs of Darwin.
“It’s hard to wake up everyday knowing that you are one day closer to not having a roof over your head,” Mr. Royal-Gray said.
They want to stay close to a special school, where one of their autistic children is on a waiting list, but this seems increasingly unlikely.
“It’s just a struggle really, you keep applying and you keep getting ‘no’, Ms. Royal-Gray said.
“If we haven’t found something, we must either make the decision to leave Darwin or find another place to stay.
Ms Royal-Gray said her family’s income was too high for social housing and affordable housing options for middle-income families were limited.
“It’s heartbreaking for everyone, not just us,” Ms. Royal-Gray said.
“I went to the open house and there are over 20 people walking through the house – some of the houses you go to, it’s just astronomical, the price is beyond our reach.”
“We’re good tenants and our real estate agent has nothing but great things to say about us, but I think in a way that doesn’t go to the landlords with your requests.”
Agents who release “a lot of tenants”
People living in regional areas across Australia have shared similar stories of evictions, rent increases and a lack of affordable housing.
The vacancy rate for Darwin’s homes fell to 1% in the March quarter, according to data from the NT Treasury.
The average rent for a house has increased by more than 17% in one year to reach $ 539 per week.
As the COVID-19 real estate boom continues, landlords have chosen to sell their properties and release tenants where possible.
Real estate agent Sascha Smithett witnessed it.
“They are unfortunately warned to leave the premises, or their rents have increased so much that they are therefore also in a real pressure cooker situation.”
Tourism worker Jamie Kemp was thrown into that pressure cooker.
Ms Kemp arrived in Darwin 10 months ago to work in the Top End tourism sector and found employment with the industry’s leading body.
After trying to renegotiate a rent increase of $ 160 per week, Ms Kemp, her husband and their greyhound are evicted.
“We’re not opposed to the rent increase, it’s just that 30% is outrageous,” Ms. Kemp said.
She’s already thinking about moving to Queensland.
“Maybe I should do it, maybe I wouldn’t have an option,” Ms. Kemp said.
“At the moment, we don’t have enough money to buy our own property.
“We’re stuck, no matter what we do, we’re stuck.”
Much like the Royal-Grays, the couple became discouraged after attending open houses for rent in Darwin.
“There were so many people,” Ms. Kemp said.
“Not all properties are suitable for our family, and if we had three or four children? Then our options would be even more limited.”
“Unjustified” rent increases
Peter McMillan, chief executive of leading affordable housing organization NT Shelter, said some tenants have reported rent increases of more than 60% and they will likely change freeways.
He said a current review of NT rental laws should examine the “dire” situation for tenants right now and how to enforce “just and reasonable” rents.
“It’s just ridiculous and it’s really unreasonable,” Mr. McMillan said.
It’s the last thing the NT needs when trying to grow its population, its economy and supply workers to an understaffed tourism industry, McMillan said.
“We are missing about 10,000 homes in the Northern Territory and we need a plan to fix it,” he said.
“It’s careless to [the NT and federal governments] not having a plan to deal with this population growth in urban centers. “
Adding to the woes of the NT, there are fears that a housing “crisis” across Australia is worsening with the rollback of a national affordability rents program that began in 2008.
The NT government has not confirmed, in response to questions from the ABC, whether a certain proportion of the new land releases will be set aside for affordable housing.
NT Shelter suggests that figure should be 20 to 30 percent and that existing public housing should not be demolished.
In a statement, NT Urban Housing Minister Kate Worden said a change in the current housing model over the next decade would include the transfer of public housing to private “community housing providers”.
“This will ultimately lead to more private investment in building more social and affordable housing,” the minister said.
Ms Worden said $ 15 million would be spent over five years on further land transfers for commercial and private investment.