Michelle Reed


Fri, 26 Jun, 2015

Soaring rental prices causing a rise in homelessness

Soaring rental prices causing a rise in homelessness

There are more people experiencing first time homelessness in NSW than ever before, according to welfare group Vinnies. The ever-increasing cost of renting in Sydney means that tenants are falling behind and finding themselves without accommodation.

And the people feeling the pinch aren’t those that are traditionally affected by homelessness, such as those with substance abuse issues or mental health problems. It’s the low-income earners and the casual workers who are finding themselves vulnerable too.

Chief Executive of Vinnies, Michael Perusco, said that this rise was deeply concerning.

“We are seeing a much greater increase in first-time homelessness,” he said.

“We're seeing a lot of people on low incomes who have a life event which causes financial difficulty and suddenly they are in arrears with their rent with no hope of catching up. This is the group slipping into homelessness. As prices continue to increase inevitably we will see more people flow into homelessness.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that in NSW almost 30,000 people are homeless, up 20 per cent since 2006.

Mr Perusco also noted that living in insecure housing can affect a person’s mental and physical health and impede their ability to get back on their feet.

“The price increases we have seen over the past few years in Sydney have driven people into homelessness and kept them homeless for longer,” he said.

“What's missing in the debate about the affordability crisis is the human impact. The sharp end is not young people missing out on mortgages, it's families and individuals who are locked out of any sort of housing.”

When Parramatta man Brian, 45, lost his job at the end of last year he found himself needing help from Vinnies to avoid homelessness.

“I never, ever thought this happen to me,” he said.

“I couldn't afford to pay the rent, I got into arrears and it looked like I was going to be evicted. The real estate agent sent me a termination notice and I thought I would end up homeless.”

After finding a new job, he was able to pay the $300 a week to rent his studio apartment. He now sees just how easily he could have become homeless.

“I used to look at homeless people and think, 'how do they get themselves like that?' It's a terrible thing to admit but I just thought they must be alcoholics or have drug problems,” he said.

“I work, I have always paid my bills on time, I don't drink, I don't smoke, I go to the gym and stay healthy but look what almost happened to me. That's what shocked me. It can happen to anyone.”

Statistics like these have led to a call for improved security of tenure for tenants and fairer laws for rent increases.

Vinnies raise money and draw attention to the issue of homelessness through events like the CEO Sleepout fundraiser that was held last week. 300 company bosses spent the night at Luna Park and Vinnies hope to raise $2.3 million. It’s not too late to show your support – donate here.

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