LOW income earners in regional areas are at increasing risk of homelessness due to rising rents, says the peak body for homelessness, with rents in some areas soaring 30 to 40 per cent in just five years.
Rents for two and three-bedroom houses in regional Victoria are increasing at a faster rate than in metro Melbourne, and well beyond inflation, according to analysis of recent DHS data by the Council to Homeless Persons.
The median rent for a three-bedroom house in regional Victoria increased 17 per cent over the last five years, compared to a 13 per cent rise across Melbourne over the same period.
The rise is much higher in the South Gippsland Shire where the median weekly rent price for a three bedroom home has risen from $203 in 2009 to $250 in 2014 – a 23 per cent rise.
The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) says a housing affordability crisis in regional Victoria is contributing to rising homelessness, with agencies seeing an increasing number of clients who are struggling to keep up with the cost of housing.
“Although it is still cheaper to rent outside of Melbourne, median rents are going up at a startling rate and people on low incomes are really feeling the squeeze,” said Jenny Smith, CEO, Council to Homeless Persons.
“A family on a low income looking for a cheap place to rent may find that many regional areas are out-of-reach, or that they end up paying more than they can afford, with little left over for essentials such as bills and groceries.
“Working wages are generally lower in the regional areas, and Centrelink incomes have not kept pace with inflation. As a result people are struggling to keep up with the cost of housing, and finding themselves at risk of homelessness,” Ms Smith said.
CHP says inflation alone doesn’t explain soaring regional rents, with increasing competition for rentals from seasonal workers, ‘treechangers’ and higher-income urban commuters also contributing.
The peak body says that homelessness agencies are also reporting an increase in the number of rooming houses in regional areas, where previously there have been none.