Rent pressures biting into Christmas budgets as Hobart market tightens further


The affordability of rental properties in Hobart and surrounds has nosedived to its lowest point in six years, the latest figures from the Rental Affordability Index found.



Yet another damning report has further cemented Hobart’s title as the most unaffordable capital city in the country, with Hobart, Sandy Bay, North, West and South Hobart, Kingston and Margate rated as unaffordable for median households on an average wage, while New Town and Lenah Valley also fast becoming unattainable.

The disparity between soaring rent prices and stagnating wages, coupled with a shortage of properties on the rental market, has caused affordability to slip by a further 12 index points in the past two years.

With a rising poverty line, the issue is not one that is confined to those on welfare, but one that is increasingly impacting middle Australia.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence’s executive director, Conny Lenneberg, estimated half of all households in Hobart are experiencing rental stress.

“[There is a] thin financial buffer that throws [people] into absolute crisis from living on the edge and just managing,” she said.

Hobart scored 101 on the rental affordability index in the June quarter of this year, meaning most households are devoting at least 30 per cent of their income to keeping a rented roof over their head.

Spiral of despair over homelessness

As Airbnb tightens its grip on the state’s rental market, Tasmania’s years long housing crisis deepens — one that Hobart resident Kate found herself at the centre of.

The 43-year-old, who did not wish for her last name to be published, found herself “trapped” with a drastically reduced income when she and her partner separated, living for two years on a day-to-day basis in the face of continually climbing costs.

“The rents just kept going up and yet my income didn’t, so I was living in an untenable situation for some time,” she said.

The single mother sacrificed meals, hot showers, electricity, medical appointments and the use of her car in order to provide her six-year-old son with a “normal” life and roof over their heads.

“You can’t plan for the future, you can’t even plan what school your child will be at year to year when you’re living in that kind of insecurity,” she said.

“It’s not just insecurity that impacts parents, it impacts children as well and it disrupts families.”

Her social life also took a hit as most outings cost money she could not find, leaving her socially isolated.

“You end up feeling like a failure and it impacts your self-esteem and it can spiral into a situation where you feel so low, you just withdraw further,” she said.

Demand up 80 per cent for support services

Kate, who is also the administrator of Facebook page ‘Hobartians Facing Homelessness’ with more than 2,700 members, said a “phenomenal number” of people are in the same boat as her and “desperate for help”.

And as 2018 hurtles towards the Christmas season, more and more properties are being listed online to cater for increasing tourism numbers.

“I personally know countless people…families who have been given short term notices to vacate as houses go online for Airbnb,” she said.

“We need more rights for tenants, more security of tenure and really need the Airbnb industry to be seriously reviewed and regulated.”

Meanwhile, executive officer of Uniting Tasmania, Jeremey Pettet, is at the forefront of those in need providing emergency, food, clothing and financial support to those struggling.

He said the alarming number of people living in crisis is becoming the norm.

“We’ve had more than 1,600 families access our services in the last 12 months — that’s an 80 per cent increase on the year before,” he said.

“It beggars belief, people shouldn’t be experiencing this in Australia in 2018.

“We’re supporting people everyday who have jobs, but many people are finding they’re one unexpected bill away from a crisis.”

Mr Pettet said things will only get worse over Christmas with struggling parents having to choose between basic necessities and presents for their children.

“Australia is a lucky country, no parent should ever have to make that choice,” he said.