Shelter WA, in partnership with the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA), hosted an Emergency Roundtable to discuss the impact of the ending of the moratorium on people in the private rental market.
A representative group from the community sector along with people from industry and government were invited to attend the Roundtable to discuss what they were seeing and hearing and importantly to formulate immediate and longer-term solutions to mitigate harm.
Setting the Scene
The roundtable commenced with representatives highlighting the impact that they were seeing with the moratorium’s end.
Neville Pozzi, Chief Executive Officer of REIWA; Jared Collins, Acting Director Housing and Homelessness at the Department of Communities; Patricia Blake, Acting Director Retail and Services at the Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety; Mark Glasson, Chief Executive Officer of Anglicare WA; Carmen Acosta, Client and Corporate Manager at Circle Green Community Legal and Leanne Strommen, General Manager of Centrecare each outlined the changes they are seeing as a result of the moratorium ending.
Neville Pozzi, REIWA CEO, spoke about the historical low vacancy rate and the impact of the lack of housing supply on vacancy rates particularly in regional areas. “In Esperance, Augusta and Dunsborough there is a zero per cent vacancy rate,” he said.
“In Esperance, Augusta and Dunsborough there is a zero per cent vacancy rate.”
Mr Pozzi raised concern with the number of investors leaving the market and the opportunity for stamp duty reform to encourage investors and people to right size their housing choice. “It’s a point where we need to do something very quickly, especially in the social housing area where government needs to step up to provide assistance to those in real need.”
“The systems that are there to support people in crisis are choking up, and there is nowhere for people to go so actually the housing issue is now impacting, more so on our crisis services,” said Mark Glasson CEO of Anglicare WA.
“There is nowhere for people to go so actually the housing issue is now impacting, more so on our crisis services.”
He noted how youth crisis accommodation has been very hard hit and how demand for emergency relief and food assistance has tripled this year.
“We are seeing an increasing presence of mental health issues and other impacts of the stress on families. Some families are refusing to leave when they get a termination notice.”
There have also been impacts in both domestic violence and an increase in referrals to hospitals.
“Women and children are staying in violent situations because they don’t have options and homelessness is the only alternative, and we are seeing increasing referrals from hospitals where women have gone to hospital, given birth and then have nowhere to go. It is all bleak as you would expect.”
Carmen Acosta from Circle Green Community Legal explained that “people are calling because of an increase in rent, and they can’t afford it”. Circle Green was formed by the merger of three established specialist community legal centres including Tenancy WA and specialises in tenancy, employment, and migration. Ms Acosta noted most calls now concerned tenancy.
“The other big problem type that we are receiving is that tenancy leases have come to an end and the landlord or the agent is unwilling to negotiate a further stay … and they need to leave and find another rental property,” Ms Acosta said.
“These calls are coming in fast and hard.”
We are working with people who are working and still cannot find an affordable rental home. This is not just people on very low incomes.
“Our biggest concern is there are no rental properties that they can afford. If they can’t afford this one, then they most certainly cannot go anywhere else. From a legal perspective we can most certainly speak to these individuals … and advise whether the landlord and or agent is doing the right thing in terms of their eviction or an increase in rent, but we cannot advise them on where else to go if there is nowhere else to go.
“These calls are coming in fast and hard. We are also now expecting to see more individuals going to court and needing our support at the Magistrates Court.”
The number of calls from people who are extremely stressed is also having an impact on staff. Circle Green has had to implement mental health training for their solicitors and other staff to equip them working with the calls they are receiving.
Leanne Strommen highlighted the impact the moratorium was having on Entrypoint a free assessment and referral service assisting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness run by Centrecare.
“The most increasing concern for us is the number of people with children that are presenting for the first time to services such as ours,” Ms Strommen said.
“Private rental leases ending is a growing stress for many people.”
“Last year there appeared to be options that we could assist people with there no longer seems like there are options. Crisis accommodation is full, supported services stretched, and there is limited accommodation available. Private rental leases ending is a growing stress for many people contacting the service and where they can go.”
Information from the Department of Communities and Consumer Protection highlighted the evidence behind the housing stress being felt.
The social housing waitlist has increased from 14,870 to 15,825 in the last 12 months. Also, the priority waitlist has increase by 46 per cent. Exits from public housing has decreased dramatically.
After hearing from speakers, a facilitated workshop was held to consider the issues and impacts of the ending of the moratorium and short and longer solutions that could be progressed.
A raft of solutions including adequate emergency relief funding available to support people to stay in their homes, through to immediate options to increase housing supply issue were canvassed.
A Housing Emergency Response Group comprised of government, industry and the community sector will work through the actions that arose from the Roundtable and develop a suite of recommendations that can be progressed.