Sarah Keating is racing to find a rental property before her two-year-old son outgrows his bed.

The 21-year-old single mother currently lives with relatives in south-east Melbourne.

She shares a room with her son Ryder, but soon the two will no longer fit.

“I’m trying to look for a bigger place to start our life and our family so that he has his own room, I have my own room,” she said.

“I can’t find anywhere.

“My son can’t sleep in my bed every night with me. He needs his own bed.”

Ms Keating said she had been looking for two-bedroom accommodation in Melbourne’s outer south-east – suburbs including Dandenong, Pakenham, Officer, Beaconsfield, Noble Park and Clyde – for around six months now and was applying until 30 places per year. month.

Sarah Keating says there is a lot of competition for rentals in Melbourne’s outer southeast.(ABC News: Crystalyn Brown)

She has some family and community support, a casual job where she works three days a week, and Centrelink.

“I keep getting emails saying I failed,” she said.

“There are so many other people struggling to find homes who are worse off than me, and I can’t go anywhere.

“We have children who need a home.”

Rents on the rise in Melbourne’s outskirts

Rent prices in some southeastern outer suburbs have seen strong growth over the past 12 months.

The median price of rental accommodation in Officer, 30 miles southeast of the CBD, is now $380 per week.

This represents an increase of almost 9.5% over the past 12 months, according to data from realestate.com.au.

At the same time, rents have fallen for similar properties closer to town.

In Carlton, the median unit rental price has dropped 10% — it’s now $360 a week.

This is less than in Berwick, Officer and Beaconsfield, all located more than 30 kilometers from the city centre.

Peter McNamara is the CEO of South East Community Links, a community organization that provides housing and financial assistance in Dandenong and surrounding areas.

a man in a suit looking at the camera.  He looks very serious.
Peter McNamara says more people than ever are struggling to find rental properties in south east Melbourne.(ABC News: Crystalyn Brown)

“A lot of people believe that the crisis is… just in the city, or they think that [it’s] the mortgage crisis we are talking about,” he said.

“But more people are renting or struggling to find homes than those with mortgages.

“We are 30 or 40 kilometers from the CBD and you want to rent a two bedroom apartment, it will cost you $400 [a week].”

Landlords raise rents amid fears of rising rates

Ashleigh Salt is the Rental Director of Harcourts ASAP, which manages properties in south-east Melbourne including Dandenong, Hallam and Noble Park.

She said many landlords, especially new investors, were raising rents for fear of future rate hikes.

“They want a lot more,” she said.

“So say the rent [for a house] was around $400 – because they don’t know what’s going to happen with the interest rates, they might want to start their rent around $460, just to hedge,” she said. declared.

a woman is sitting at a desk and smiling at the camera.  she wears black clothes with a blue striped tie.
Ashleigh Salt says landlords are tougher on tenants after they couldn’t evict anyone during the pandemic.(ABC News: Crystalyn Brown)

Ms Salt said the other change was that landlords who were unable to seek rent or evict tenants during the COVID hardship rules were being more selective about who they chose for their property.

“Now they’re a little more nervous about who they put in and what kind of income they have, so if it were to happen again, they wouldn’t be in the same situation,” she said.

Changing housing market makes rentals even more out of reach

Mr McNamara said with rising rents, vulnerable people were finding it difficult to apply anywhere in the private rental market.

“We are also concerned that there will be discrimination. That new mums or people on Centrelink payments will be immediately dismissed,” he said.

He said his organization also hears stories of people offering extra rent or rent months in advance.

“How can you compete with that?”

McNamara said the federal government should consider tying rental assistance to local rent prices or urgently repurposing government buildings as low-cost housing.

Sarah Keating said she had no choice but to keep applying.

“Keep trying,” she said.

“That’s all you can do.”