13 July 2022

Riverina residents warned to buckle up for more rental stress

| Chris Roe
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Aerial view of Wagga

The Riverina has been identified as one of five regions in NSW most impacted by the state’s rental crisis. Photo: File.

A recent report has spurred concerns that tenants in regional markets will be hit with rent increases as landlords look to recoup the cost of rising interest rates.

The report from the “Everybody’s Home” affordable housing campaign identified the Riverina as one of five regions in NSW most impacted by the state’s rental crisis.

Spokesperson Kate Colvin warned that renters face a tough time.

“After a decade of inaction on social and affordable housing from the previous Commonwealth Government we really are in a perfect storm,” she said.

“There are limited options for people who can’t afford to buy but want to stay in their local community.”

In the past 12 months the vacancy rate has shrunk to a historic low of less than 1 per cent (0.44 per cent) while rents have increased by more than 16.5 per cent across the Riverina.

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woman and man on cart protesting

Colourised detail from a historical image of a “Fair Rents” protest in Wagga in the early 20th century. Photo: Museum of the Riverina.

The term “rental stress” is defined as costs of rent exceeding 30 per cent of the gross household income.

According to realestate.com.au, the median rent on a house in Wagga is around $23,400 a year ($450 per week), while the average salary is $54,000. This equates to 43.3 per cent of gross wages for a single-income family.

Jasmine Woodlands from Anglicare in Wagga said people are finding themselves with nowhere to go.

“If they’re in a house that they can’t afford, they really can’t afford to leave either because often they’re going to be homeless,” she explained.

“We’re certainly seeing so many more people present who haven’t asked for help in the past.

“It has really put people that may not have been under pressure before under pressure, and those who were vulnerable in the first place are even more vulnerable.”

Anglicare’s national rental affordability snapshot, released in April, described a “catastrophic housing outlook for vulnerable people relying on government supports” in Wagga.

Jasmine said that while demand for services declined during the COVID-19 pandemic when additional government support was made available, things have now swung back to be worse than before.

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“People could actually afford to live and pay their bills and they were not just service dependent if they had the means to pay their own way,” she said.

“Now we’re back down to their original payments and the cost of living has come up and again services have really struggled to support people.”

She said it was important for people to know that help was available through organisations like hers.

“We offer food relief and we do have financial counselling to help support them through those debts that they may have or vouchers for electricity and things like that,” she said.

“It’s also people knowing what they’re entitled to, so it is really important to come to the services and find out what’s out there because there is quite a lot that will help people.”

Kate Colvin from Everybody’s Home believes that urgent intervention is needed to increase the amount of social and affordable housing, which are essential for a community to function.

“Renters on low and modest incomes work in the local shops and aged care services. They have kids in local schools, are members of sports clubs, and attend local churches. They deserve the same stability as everyone else,” she said.

“The bitter fruit of a decade of housing neglect is with us now and is being unfairly forced on low-income renters.

“This problem will only get worse if we fail to act.”

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