Susan Moar is searching for a rental.
Susan Moar is searching for a rental.

Family homeless in rent crisis

THIS single mum is the face of Grafton’s growing rental crisis.

Susan Moar has been homeless for four weeks – and counting.

After her former rental house was sold, Mrs Moar had 30 days to find a new property for herself and her two children, aged 14 and 9.

But the casual waitress, who earns $320 per week, can’t find an affordable, liveable home in Grafton.

Instead, she has been forced to live one week with her elderly parents, then the next with a girlfriend, in a desperate bid to keep a roof over her family’s head.

“We’re living out of the boot of a car,” she said. “It’s very depressing.”

Mrs Moar said while there were plenty of rental properties available, none fell into her price range or met her liveability standards.

“There are a lot in South Grafton, including Margaret Crescent, for $300 (per week),” she said.

“I can pay $250 – I struggled to pay $270 before.”

In addition to being unaffordable, she said most of the available homes were old and unappealing, some with ‘boarded-up windows’.

“It’s easy enough to find a house, but I want a home,” she said. “I’m not going to live in a hovel with my children.”

On the week that her children are with her (they alternate with her ex-husband), Mrs Moar lives with her parents in their two-bedroom home on Turf Street. Her mother, in her 70s, sleeps on a blow-up bed so Mrs Moar and her children can share a bed. Mrs Moar’s wheelchair-bound father is in the other bedroom.

“The kids are finding it hard,” she said. “You’re never comfortable in someone else’s house.”

Mrs Moar said her nine-year-old son told a friend at school ‘we’re homeless’. “It’s a bit disheartening,” she said.

Every second day, Mrs Moar visits the real estate agents along Prince Street and scans the internet in the hope of finding a suitable property. She said ‘hundreds’ would apply for the affordable properties. “There are so many people out there in the same position,” she said.

Real estate agents confirmed the Grafton rental market was ‘stretched’.

Ray White Grafton principal Adam Sydenham said the Federal Government’s first home buyers stimulus had compounded local tenants’ woes.

“A lot of investors thought it was a good time to sell their investment properties,” he said. “It was perceived that due to the number of first home buyers, the market’s prices were stronger. This meant more properties being sold, and less for the tenants to look for.”

Mr Sydenham said in addition, first home buyers usually left the family home, so their purchase did not free up any of the rental market. He said consequently the rental property supply was ‘drying up’, but the demand had stayed strong.

He said the Grafton rental market had a low vacancy rate, averaging below one per cent in the past six months, which meant tenants were paying a ‘premium’ due to the lack of available rentals.

Meanwhile, he said the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision to increase interest rates made it likely that tenants in the area would bear some of the cost, passed on by mortgage holders increasingly feeling the squeeze. “Across the board, there will be a higher percentage increase (in rents) to compensate,” Mr Sydenham said.

He said while there were benefits to a higher interest rate, the ‘other side of the sword’ was the impact on mortgage holders. “They’re the ones affected,” he said. “They have a choice – absorb the cost, or pass it on.”

Mr Sydenham said during the past two years his office had seen a 29 per cent increase in rents for one and two-bedroom properties.

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