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Shire affordable housing shortage

A report carried out by Anglicare revealed that the private rental market is failing low income earners on the South Coast.

In the last annual Rental Affordability Snapshot only one suitable rental property was available for a single parent on a minimum wage in the Bega Valley and only two in the Eurobodalla.

Eurobodalla has some serious economic difficulties to face and to overcome. The largest “employer” in the Shire is Centrelink and, as the demands on income assistance increases everyday, the government is making it harder and harder for individuals and families to claim. January 1st 2017 will see the introduction of new asset testing criteria that will have an impact on the higher that average number of pensioners we have in this shire. The Eurobodalla is a holiday destination. Our principle industry is tourism and that means our main income is seasonal. The unemployment rate in Eurobodalla in June 2016 was 7.03% By comparison Regional NSW was 6.15% and the average for NSW was 5.2% What isn’t revealed in these figures is the fact that many in the Eurobodalla are Underemployed having two or three jobs and often not finding 38 hours of work in any given week. Under such circumstances it is often difficult for low income earners to find affordable accommodation. With the region's focus on tourism the rental market tightens up considerably over summer and then loosens off as the area comes into winter. Eurobodalla has a very high rate of self-administered holiday rentals that often remain underutilised in the off season offset by the high rentals received in summer. Australia currently has an inflation rate of 1.3 per cent. Retirees are taking their money out of the banks and investing in bricks and mortar to receive better returns from rents. With that investment comes conditionality. They want reliable tenants who have steady incomes, non-smoking, no kids, no dogs and they want the market rental price which is outside of most low income affordabilities. Adding to the demand for properties in the Eurobodalla is the building drift from the cities as retirees sell their homes for high returns and then reinvest with a sea-change that leaves a nest-egg safeguard. The private rental market in Eurobodalla has few options for those on low incomes or Centrelink benefits.

As a result there is significant pressure on government housing programs and aged pensioners, single parents, disability pensioners, unemployed people and families, and students remain out of reach of appropriate and affordable housing. Campbell Page identified that crisis accommodation was needed in particular in Batemans Bay and Narooma, in addition to the existing refuges in Moruya and that additional services for homeless men in the Eurobodalla as the area of greatest need.

The only Men’s crisis accommodation in the Eurobodalla is Hope House in Batemans Bay.

This, by all indications, indicates that Eurobodalla is not equipped to meet the needs of homeless people

On average, households in the Shire have lower incomes than those found across Regional NSW - the proportion of very low income households is higher and the proportion of high income households. Incomes are significantly lower incomes than those across NSW as a whole. An Anglicare comparison between 2015 and 2016 data identified that there was an increase in properties for rent but a decrease in affordability for people on income support and that there was no suitable rental properties are affordable across the BBay region for a single parent earning a minimum wage. In Narooma the old La Salle Motel (now renamed Tara) is being refurbished by local businessman Harvey Ball. Mr Ball is transforming the motel into affordable housing gravitating toward aged housing for those who cannot afford the large bonds or pre-payment to retirement villages and need affordable rental accommodation instead. It all comes down to whose responsibility it is to see more affordable housing is available. Investors want returns and they are not prepared to cut their rents simply to be generous. The State and Federal governments have tight budgets that are often directed at the crisis metropolitan areas leaving regional and rural Australia out in the cold with token, and often inadequate funding or access to resources. What about Eurobodalla Shire Council ? What could they do? A report entitled Eurobodalla Shire Housing Needs Study - MEETING EUROBODALLA’S HOUSING NEEDS was prepared by Kim Houghton and George Porter for Eurobodalla Shire Council in May 2014 noted that Low cost housing, and social housing in particular, was in relatively short supply identifying the significant influence that external factors have on the Eurobodalla housing market:

“Incoming migrants and second home buyers comprise a very large proportion of the Shire’s housing market, and a slowdown in these sectors has weakened the local housing market.”

The report offered up the following recommendations to Eurobodalla Council.

4.1 Council should consider a more active working relationship with affordable housing providers (and in particular local housing associations) in order to support their development activities and to assist them in obtaining access to State and Federal incentives to build low cost and social housing. Council should consider tasking a suitable staff position to drive this relationship and actively link State Government policies and incentives to affordable housing builders and providers in the Shire.

4.2 Council should consider incentives to promote the development of affordable rental housing, for instance through reduced parking requirements, relaxed lot size and landscaping requirements, or DA and other fee reductions, rates discounts etc.

4.3 Council should be actively promoting State and Federal incentives to build low cost and social housing.

The reality we have in Eurobodalla is that of an above average unemployment rate, an above average “older” population, an above average number of holiday rentals, an above average number of under-employed and an affordable housing shortfall that is steadily growing as demand for homes is outstripping supply due to sluggish development and property investment over the last decade. Meanwhile it has been alleged that several residents across the Shire have been “moved on” from their leases in the leadup to summer. Possibly so that non-resident owners can spend Christmas in their coastal properties or that higher rents might be gleaned. The degree of difficulty for a low income family to find a considerable bond and of finding landlords/realestate agents prepared to accept rental application offering long term leases is growing.

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