Homelessness Week in regional Australia

Written byChristine Tondorf
Published on30 Sep, 2021
Homeless Unsplash Free

RELEASED: August 1, 2021

During National Homelessness Week (August 1-7), Social Futures is pleading for the state and federal governments to address the growing number of homeless outside capital cities.

An exodus from cities, record low rental rates and skyrocketing house prices have combined to create a perfect storm of homelessness in many parts of regional Australia during the pandemic.

Not-for-profit community service provider Social Futures say locals are being priced out of their hometowns — tearing the social fabric of regional Australia.

“In coastal towns like Tweed Heads, Byron, Port Macquarie and Ballina vacancy rates are now between 0.1 to 0.3 per cent, which means it’s pretty much impossible to rent a house in those towns,” Social Futures CEO Tony Davies said.

“Rental rates are also at record lows in towns like Ballarat and Bendigo in Victoria and Gympie and Bundaberg in Queensland.

“We now have a new cohort of homelessness in regional Australia. People who are employed, with rental or home ownership history, yet they have been pushed out of the current rental market purely due to high demand and very limited supply.

“How can teachers, police officers and nurses go to regional Australia when they can’t rent a house? The housing crisis is having a huge impact on regional towns, and we are especially worried about young people and the elderly, who rent in our towns.

“We hear stories of city people phoning landlords and offering $100 to $150 more in rent a week. Long-term tenants then receive a no-fault-eviction notices In Northern New South Wales there is a waiting list for social housing of between 10 to 15 years.”

“Local, state and federal government need to invest in community housing in regional Australia. We need action now because the nation’s 180 housing support services will all tell you that the situation is only going to worsen.”

Facts about regional housing stress

  • The population of regional Australia grew by 43,000 last year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, meaning the pandemic has led to the biggest exodus from cities since the 1850s gold rush to the bush. 26,000 people left Melbourne last year – with half going to regional Victorian towns and the other half moving interstate.
  • Research by the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) shows one-in-five city residents are looking to move to the regions, with more than half wanting to make the jump within the next 12 months. (Regional Australia has escaped the worst of the pandemic. Sydney is beginning its sixth week of lockdown, regional NSW is under no lockdowns.)
  • Rents have surged in many parts of regional Australia. For example, rental prices on the Far North Coast of New South Wales have climbed almost 20 per cent in the past year, surpassing rent increases in every Australian city. It costs $646 to rent house in Sydney, $482 to rent in Melbourne, $699 to rent a house in Tweed Heads.

The regional town of Byron Bay has overtaken Sydney as the most expensive place to live with a median house price of $2.7 million meanwhile Byron Bay has the second largest rough sleeping homeless population in New South Wales after Sydney. Byron Shire has 198 rough sleepers compared to Sydney’s 272.

(Photo: Jon Tyson, Unsplash)