Data shows impact on people and services in the lead up to rental moratorium lifting

New figures provided by peak housing and homelessness body Shelter WA, in partnership with the Western Australian Council of Social Service (WACOSS), shows the increased impact on people and frontline service providers and is deep cause for concern.

A targeted sample of service providers who deliver frontline services to people who have been or are facing eviction, or had their rent significantly increased as a result of the moratorium lifting, has been undertaken.

Survey

The survey was completed by community housing providers, homelessness services, support services and outreach, and tenancy support providers including intensive family support workers, and agencies providing emergency relief.

Regions covered included Perth metro, South West, Wheatbelt, the Midwest and Gascoyne and Peel.

When asked about the impact on their services in the month leading up to the moratorium, 100 percent reported an increase in number of calls for assistance, and 86 per cent reported an increase in the number of people they are unable to assist and have had to turn away.

Examples

This includes:

  • “We are now receiving over 50 calls a day for private tenancy support and another 100-150 people a day at the drop-in centre for rough sleepers.”
  • “Approximately 80 per cent of our daily calls are requests to see if we have available housing to which we respond that we currently do not have any vacancies.”
  • “So far this month we have had to turn away 70 people which is significantly more than in recent months. We believe that increase is directly related to rental increases and reduction of Job Seeker payments.”
  • “An increased number of people expressing concern they will soon be homeless.”
  • “A significant increase in members of the public calling to request access to housing through our reception team, and having to refer these on but knowing there is nowhere to go.”
  • “500 per cent increase in calls from 30 to 200 calls a day – we have had to put on more staff, and this is having an enormous impact on the stress and wellbeing of our staff.”

When asked for the reasons people provided for contacting services, these were:

REASON (%)
Trouble finding an affordable rental home 100
Facing eviction 71
Increase in rental prices 100
Unable to pay bonds 43
Income not covering the basic necessities 86

Examples include

  • “I know a few instances of clients sleeping in rough (in cars) due to reduced Centrelink payments and the inability to secure rentals.”
  • “Centrelink benefits will not cover bond and rent in advance which is usually requested in a new rental. This means all of the Centrelink benefit is being used for bond leaving no money for food and other essentials. The high risk of eviction if rental arrears are not paid is of concern, and tenants can’t gain a new Department of Housing tenancy until rent arrears are fully paid.”
  • We just received a call from a single woman living in a car between Busselton and Bunbury – with FDV leading to insecure housing five months previously.  The team are finding it very difficult to find any services to refer callers to that could support them in their immediate housing needs.

When asked if service providers are seeing any new trends,

– More people trying to access hospital emergency rooms.

– People who have never accessed housing or emergency relief are making contact and are at significant financial stress and facing homelessness.

– Single women.

– Women in violent relationships having to stay with a violent partner because they can’t afford to leave and have no rental options available so if they were to leave the relationship, they have nowhere to stay.

– New people coming to homeless centre that we’ve not seen previously.

– Increased numbers in general contacting their service is overwhelming.

– Referrals increasing and waitlists closed because they’re overwhelmed.

– More contact from families facing eviction.

– More contact from people who have never been homeless before and don’t require a supported service.

– More people accessing homeless services for tenancy support services.

– Increased levels of stress and mental health amongst people who call.

Examples include

  • “A single mother of five children has had a rent increase from $350 per week to $550 per week. The likelihood is that the mother and her five children are expecting to be homeless.”
  • “I received a phone call from a single woman with four children, one whom had a disability. They’re currently living in a caravan park due to the landlord selling her rental property. She was unable to find or even be considered for any affordable rental properties. She stated that she had to sell all of her furniture to be able to reside and afford the caravan park. She now has no money for a bond.”
  • “We’ve had increased enquiries on any vacancies, of which we have none. We have had people contacting us that would not meet the homelessness eligibility criteria call us, people that would normally access the general rental market. We also have had an increased number of calls for availability in Perth but don’t have any properties in Perth.”

Solutions to the rental crisis is needed now. All respondents strongly supported a suite of measures to keep people in their homes and ensure that people had a home in which to live including:

– Spot purchasing vacant dwellings in partnership with the community housing sector.

– The government immediately stops selling their housing stock and keeps them as rental homes.

– Ensuring emergency relief funding is available to support renters stay in their homes.

– Providing emergency accommodation for people who have nowhere to live.

– Reviewing eligibility criteria for the Residential Relief Grant scheme so no one in crisis is falling through the cracks.

– Auditing government owned land and buildings to identify assets suitable for affordable rental and social housing.

– Using modular housing options on vacant land to rapidly increase affordable housing supply.

– Funding to convert vacant commercial buildings to affordable rentals.

– Reforming the Residential Tenancies Act to provide more security for renters.

**We are encouraging all reporters to provide the following details in the story**

Where can Tenants get advice and support?

  • Department of Consumer Protection evictions and tenancy advice. 1300 30 40 54.
  • Circle Green Community Legal for tenancy advice. (08) 6148 3636.
  • Financial Counsellors’ Association of WA for financial counselling. (08) 9325 1617.
  • WAConnect.org.au for emergency relief near you.

Key Facts

    • There is a shortfall of 39,200 social and 19,300 affordable homes across WA.
    • The WA rental vacancy rate is at a 40-year low.
    • The WA rental market is unaffordable for low-income households with over 50 per cent of WA’s renters on low incomes in rental stress.
    • There are over 30,000 people are on the wait list for social housing (15,825 applications at April 1, 2021) – an increase of 1,000 applications in the last twelve months.
    • The priority waitlist for social housing has increase by 46 per cent.
    • Only 119 social housing properties were built in the last three years and in the last three years the number of social homes decreased by 1,155 properties.

Access our Unlock Housing free resources here.

Media Contact

Chantal Caruso | 0447 201 377 / (08) 9325 6660 | projects@shelterwa.org.au