One year on, advocates say Hobart is still in the grips of a housing crisis

Haley Oakley
Written by The ReReport
As seen in the Source link, written by on 2019-03-10 06:06:12


March 10, 2019 06:06:12

When Hayley Oakley left home, her only option was to go to a women’s shelter.

Key points:

  • College students are staying at shelters or couch-surfing because of a lack of private rental options.
  • Housing providers say they’re still inundated with requests, and some client loads have more than doubled.
  • A year after the summit, waiting lists are down, but rental prices in the Hobart area are up more than 9 per cent.

The 16-year-old comes from a family of 10, and says she always struggled to concentrate on school in such a disruptive environment.

The year 11 student felt she had to move out of her home in Tasmania’s northern suburbs last year, and spent 12 weeks staying in two women’s shelters.

“Getting in that environment was very hard and overwhelming, but in the end … it gave me the opportunity that I needed in order to do things I wanted to do, such as … being able to focus on my studies,” she said.

“Being from a large family made these things a little bit difficult.”

Hayley has now found a public housing unit through Claremont College, but says many of her classmates in similar situations have not been so lucky.

In Tasmania, one third of people making up the public housing waiting list are under 25.

“Generally I think my journey for the housing was a lot simpler than some other people’s,” Hayley said.

“I know quite a lot of people that have also been in shelters that do a lot of couch surfing or finding someone to stay with for a while.”

Tasmanians sent interstate to relocate

It’s been a year since the Tasmanian Government convened an emergency housing summit.

The state was enjoying a once unthought of economic boom, the population was growing and investors were buying up real estate.

The problem was, there weren’t enough houses to go around.

Housing case managers Tara and Amanda have been at the frontline of Hobart’s housing crisis, sometimes suffering verbal abuse as they deal with people desperate for a roof over their head.

In the past 18 months Tara and Amanda — who asked for their surnames to be withheld — have had their client load almost double, but they refuse to turn people away.

“There have been times when it’s been a quarter to five and there’ll be three workers on the phone finding anywhere that we possibly can,” Tara said.

The two women work to find shelter or longer term housing for their clients, and Amanda says the work can take its toll.

“You understand their frustration, that it’s really hard out there to get a house, so it’s not towards us and you understand that, but yes there can be abuse at times … they can sometimes ring up and just be really angry,” she said.

The case workers say the cost of private rentals in Hobart is out of reach for many.

With long public housing and shelter waiting lists, Tara said some clients have asked the case managers to be relocated interstate.

“[Hobart City Mission] paid for their airfares, one lady went to Western Australia and another lady went to Melbourne because they were the only housing outcomes that these people could get, there was nothing down here,” she said.

Professionals falling through the cracks

Amanda said the demographic of those in need of housing was broadening out.

“There are more professional people coming through so it’s really hard for everyone out there,” she said.

Occupational therapist and sole parent Fiona had to move twice in the past 12 months and as a result has been paying an extra $120 a week for rent.

Her $420 a week could cover a modest mortgage, but saving for a deposit has been impossible.

“I’ve done a degree, I’m a professional in what I do, and … actually now in my late 40s I’ve got to work harder than I did when I was younger,” she said.

“I had no idea I would be on the poverty line. One of the things I do is volunteer at the local Foodbank and now I get some of the food as well.”

One year on from housing summit

Twelve months on from the housing summit, there have been some improvements.

The Housing Tasmania waiting list is down from 3,412 to 3,249, and the wait for public housing is down from 72 weeks to 56.

Rental vacancy rates have also eased over the last 12 months, moving from 0.4 per cent to 1 per cent, but rental prices in the greater Hobart area are up 9.4 per cent.

Late last year Hobart was named the “least affordable capital city in Australia” on the Rental Affordability Index (RAI).

Figures showed the average rental household in greater Hobart had a median yearly income of $61,300, and was paying about 30 per cent of that on rent.

According to data from the Tenant’s Union of Tasmania, the median rent for a three-bedroom home in Hobart City was $500 in the September quarter last year.

In the Kingston area, to Hobart’s south, it was $420, while the median rents were $370 in Glenorchy, north of Hobart, and $385 on the eastern shore.

Housing Minister Roger Jaensch said the Government had taken action in the past 12 months to address the crisis, pointing to the rezoning and release of Government land, extra funding for emergency accommodation, tougher rules for the short stay accommodation sector and incentives to landlords to make their properties available to low-income renters.

“The waiting list for housing has stabilised, it’s a bit lower now than what it was a year ago,” Mr Jaensch said.

“The other thing which is really significant is that Tasmania as a whole, and Hobart in particular, has record levels of construction underway — approvals, commencements and completions.”

“We’ve got five years of funding committed from last budget, $25 million for affordable housing action plan and we’ve just been successful in securing another $30 million from the Commonwealth for the city deal,” he added.

But Ben Bartl from the Tenants Union hasn’t noticed much of a change, and said greater Hobart remains in an acute housing crisis.

“There are thousands of people looking for accommodation, they’re currently sleeping on people’s couches, in people’s sheds and they’re living in their cars,” he said.

Camper still homeless

Michael Prestage was one of the people whose plight was highlighted a year ago when he was living in a tent at Berridale in Hobart’s north.

Twelve months on, he now lives in a caravan.

“It was easy living in a tent to start with, but when all that rain come it made it so hard,” he said.

Housing Tasmania has a limit of two dogs for its rental properties and Mick has three, but after suffering the death of his wife and overcoming an ice addiction, he said his dogs are his lifeline and won’t let them go.

“It’s hard to explain, its a comfort thing, a real big comfort thing for me, through my depression and they’ve stopped me from suicide pretty much,” he said.

“That’s the long and the short of it, they are my family they’re my kids, I don’t know what I’d do without them really.”