Greater Western Sydney 'disproportionately' impacted by housing and rental stress
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Kate Scott had to downsize to two rooms after soaring rents in Western Sydney's private rental market left her with just $89 a fortnight for other essentials.
Ms Scott, a disability support pensioner, was paying $450 for a house in Carlingford in north-west Sydney, sucking up 91 per cent of her pension.
"I really was dying, like $89 a fortnight. That's not enough to buy food. Not enough to do anything," she said.
She survived with help from her children, who gave her money and paid for groceries to be delivered.
"So that kept me going. But if it hadn't been for those three, I would be dead," the 64-year-old said.
Ms Scott's dire situation forced her to downsize to a two-room granny flat at the back of a house in Baulkham Hills, which she rents for $350 a week.
The landlord at her previous house increased the rent by $50 to $500 a week as soon as she moved out.
Rental markets are the tightest on record, with just 1.3 per cent of properties vacant in Sydney in July, pushing rents up and many into rent stress.
Median rent for houses in Greater Sydney was $722 in August, an increase of nine per cent in a year, according to Core Logic data.
The lowest median rent was $404 for a unit in the rural Wollondilly local government area on Sydney's far south western fringe.
Rents have escalated by 10 per cent or more in some parts of Western Sydney, including Parramatta and Blacktown.
Billie Sankovic, CEO of the Western Sydney Community Forum, said rents had increased significantly in some areas, exacerbated by other rising costs of living, but rent stress was not a new phenomenon.
"The anecdotal information we've been receiving from local services and local agencies is absolutely supported by the data because we know that Greater Western Sydney is disproportionately impacted by housing and rental stress, and particularly in that inner ring," she said.
Ms Sankovic said anecdotal evidence from Western Sydney aid agencies showed a widening gap between rent and income.
"There are some families and individuals that are spending in the order of 70 per cent of their income on housing costs alone, and that is more than doubled as sort of a full affordability index of around 30 per cent," she said.
Census data showed that more than 40 per cent of households in some areas of Western Sydney were in rental stress, defined as spending more than 30 per cent of household income on rent.
Ms Scott has lived in six rented properties in the last seven years, forced to move when rents have gone up or the landlord has sold the house.
She has experienced the worst of the private rental market, from landlords charging $500 to wash the windows of a property she vacated and $200 to dispose of carpets the landlord himself had ripped up.
Inflation is pushing up interest rates. Interest rates are pushing up mortgage costs. There's talk of a rental supply crisis. This means there's a good chance your landlord wants to increase your rent. Where do you stand?
She has tried to get a private rental subsidy paid by the government, but was told she was paying too much rent to be assisted.
Ms Scott is on the waiting list for public housing, but in the southern highlands, miles from where she now lives.
She was offered emergency public housing in lieu of rent assistance, but only if she was evicted from her rental property.
Ms Sankovic said it was not uncommon for vulnerable groups to struggle to access rental assistance.
"There are barriers to actually understanding the system and accessing the system and navigating the system," she said.
She would like to see more investment in social housing by the NSW government.
"In Greater Western Sydney, the current supply of social and affordable housing meets around four per cent of demand. So we know that we need about 6,500 new social and affordable dwellings per year, well into the 2030s, in order for us to meet demand."
Ms Scott said finding her new home was "like a miracle" and she feels happy and safe there, though she has gone without heating for most of this winter.
"I just rug up more. Admittedly I had turned it on twice in the rains. It's a granny flat but it does warm up a lot when the sun is up, but when it was cloudy and rainy, it was very cold."
She hopes the rent won't go up and will cut back on spending if it does.
"Because if they decided to put it up to $400, I'm in a lot of trouble again. I will still do it because it's easier just not to eat," she said.
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