#AceNewsReport – Mar.16: Andrew Kemmell has spent the past few weeks packing his life into boxes: His children’s toys are the last items stacked into his storage unit: Mr Kemmell is also now facing losing shared custody arrangements for his two children: “ The only option I’ve got, [because] I’ve got camping gear, is to go to a caravan park and sleep in a tent,” he said: I did a search, and there’s nothing. There’s nothing at all at that sort of price that I can afford.” For almost two years Mr Kemmell has paid $263 a week in rent, with the rest subsidised through the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS): But the program is expiring, and his landlord wants to ensure they continue receiving market rent for the property:
Welfare advocates concerned ‘perfect storm’ brewing in Tasmania as rental demand outstrips supply: As the END of (NRAS)national rental scheme to compound their housing crisis as unaffordability sweeps the state’
‘The disability pensioner has a spinal injury from a workplace incident, but with nowhere else to go when he is evicted from his Claremont home, Mr Kemmell will become one of an increasing number of Tasmanians forced to sleep rough’
That’s something Mr Kemmell cannot afford — since March 2018 Tasmania’s median rents have risen 22 per cent to $365 a week. The average price in the state’s south is even higher, at just over $400 a week.
His distressed neighbour, an age pensioner, is in the same situation.
“It’s daunting. I’ve never been in this situation before,” Mr Kemmell said.
“I’ve always been a good tenant, paid my rent, paid my bills, done all the right things all the time … you’ve just got to sort of block it out and take each day as it comes.”
The end of NRAS means hundreds of Tasmanian tenants whose rents have been subsidised will no longer have access to cheaper rentals, further compounding the state’s housing woes.
This week marks three years since the emergency housing summit,called in the wake of a state election campaign dominated by stories of working families facing homelessness and images of Tasmanians seeking refuge at Hobart’s showgrounds.
Following the summit, then-premier Will Hodgman declared “for those Tasmanians who are living in a tent, who need a home, it is unacceptable that we are not able to provide that”.
But for some, like Mr Kemmell, that remains the reality three years later.
Tasmania’s public housing waiting list continues to increase. In March 2018 there were 3,300 Tasmanians on the list — there are now 3,594, and it takes an average of almost 64 weeks to house those most in need.
Vacancy rates tight, house prices up
Median rent has risen by 22 percent since the summit, and vacancy rates remain tight. In Hobart the vacancy rate is 0.6 percent according to SQM Research — the same as it was three years ago.
In Launceston the vacancy rate is down to 0.8 percent, and in Burnie the market is even tighter, with a vacancy rate of 0.2 percent.
House prices are also still rapidly rising.
In Hobart prices have risen 14 percent in three years, to a median of $560,000 according to the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania.
Launceston prices are up 21 percent to $395,000 and Burnie prices have skyrocketed by 28 percent to $325,000.
University of Tasmania Economics lecturer Maria Yanotti said Tasmania appeared to be hitting another housing crisis.
“Hobart and Tasmania are still the most unaffordable regions in Australia,” Dr Yanotti said.
“I would say that the difference is that now its more spread around Tasmania, it’s not just focused on Hobart as was the situation in 2018.”
She said improvements in infrastructure and opportunities were needed for those living outside major cities, and there was a need for more modern, sustainable and small affordable housing.
Following the 2018 housing summit, the State Government promised change.
More than 700 lots of public land across the state are being made available for housing, including the 470 lots planned at Huntingfield near Kingston, but no homes have been built so far.
Twenty-two families were housed after a review of Housing Tasmania’s portfolio, and there are now 253 households being assisted by the Government in the private rental market through the Private Rental Incentive Scheme.
Short stay accommodation companies are also now providing data to the Tasmanian Government, but concerns about their impact remain.
Rental shortage ‘persistent and chronic’
Housing advocates said there was success out of the summit, but much more was needed.
Shelter Tasmania’s Pattie Chugg said the tight rental market was putting pressure on homelessness services.
Tasmania has 50 homelessness services across the state — each day, 36 people are turned away.
“What we’ve seen is this persistent and chronic shortage of affordable private rentals. That remains, and the prices of rentals continue to increase,” Ms Chugg said.
“What we need now is to see a big boost to our social housing.”
The Government has promised to build 1,500 additional social housing properties by mid-2023.
Shelter Tasmania wants that ramped up to 10,000 homes in a decade, and a commitment to ensure 10 percent of Tasmania’s dwellings are social and affordable housing.
Housing Minister Roger Jaensch said more services were available for people in acute housing stress now than ever before.
He said the government was investing heavily at multiple levels to ensure better shelter options were made available, but the only solution was increased supply.
“At the moment we believe the building sector in Tasmania is about at capacity,” Mr Jaensch said.
“We’re pulling every lever we can right across the market to provide more supply and capacity to meet demand.”
For 10 months, Paul Richardson has been hunting for an affordable rental property near Launceston, without any luck.
After three years in his St Leonards home, Mr Richardson is facing a rent increase of almost 18 per cent, taking his weekly payments from $340 to $400 a week — an amount he cannot cover.
Mr Richardson receives a carer’s pension. His son Zakary has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and receives a disability pension.
“The rent’s just gone through the roof,” Mr Richardson said.
The pair struggle to make ends meet — every cent is already spoken for.
“There’s only limited money we’re getting,” he said.
“We’re thankful for that money, but about $340 … that’s more than house payments.
“If you get an increase of $400 to $450, well that’s off the bottom line, so you can’t afford anything, can’t afford to eat basically.”
Rental market ‘a perfect storm’
The Richardsons’ situation is far from unique.
According to Shelter Tasmania, rents across the state have risen by 36 per cent in the past five years, far outstripping income growth, while vacancy rates remain below 1 per cent.
The organisation said the median income for a renting household in Hobart was $64,000 — compared with $93,500 in Melbourne.
TasCOSS chief executive Adrienne Picone said Tasmania was facing a “perfect storm” in the rental market; significant numbers of jobs lost through COVID-19, the moratorium on evictions and rent increases ending, and JobSeeker only increasing by $25 a week.
“We’re seeing in regional Tasmania this issue is an issue that’s growing significantly, even more than in urban areas,” she said.
“We’re gravely concerned. We feel like last year what we talked about a lot was this potential cliff, and what we’re seeing right now is people poised on the edge of that cliff.
“There’s an incredibly low supply at the moment and an incredibly high demand.”
‘I am in panic mode’
According to data compiled by the Tenant’s Union, the median price for a three-bedroom home in southern Tasmania has risen 18 per cent since the 2018 emergency housing summit, to $450 a week.
It is up 21 per cent in northern Tasmania to $363 a week, and in the north-west it has risen 13 per cent to $300 a week.
Some families have turned to online classifieds sites to try and find housing, posting pictures of their children and blurbs detailing their desperation.
One ad said: “I am a single mother already struggling to pay $450 per week.”
“As of the new lease, if I were to sign, it would go up to $520 per week so I am in panic mode.”
Ms Picone said TasCOSS wanted to see the coronavirus protections against eviction and rent rises reintroduced for at least another year.
“[They] really went a long way to supporting Tasmanians and we would like to see that maintained,” she said.
Housing Minister Roger Jaensch said extending those protections was not being considered.
“We believe that having kept renters and landlords in relationships together through this period that the protections have done their job and we need to ease back into a more normal market world,” he said.
“If we can be providing more housing into that, more stimulus for building of new housing in the private market as well, and other initiatives which keep the economy strong and provide more opportunities for people to earn an income, those are the solutions we need to be focusing on right now.”
#AceNewsDesk report …….Published: Mar.16: 2021:
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