14 September 2022

Housing and homelessness the coast's latest disaster

| Sally Foy
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Eurobodalla Shire’s North Head campground is home to more than fifty families unable to find rental accommodation. Photo: Karyn Starmer.

There are 50 homeless families living at Moruya North Head Campground and a housing crisis is the “new disaster” replacing bushfires, floods and the pandemic.

That’s according to Gilmore MP Fiona Phillips, who says temporary disaster accommodation is needed.

“It is not okay for 50 families to be homeless,” she said.

Ms Phillips said local people faced desperate circumstances, citing a pregnant mother-of-two who had escaped domestic violence and had applied and been rejected for 50 private rentals.

A representative of South East Women and Children’s Services said Eurobodalla women were staying in abusive domestic situations because the alternative was life on the streets.

“Some women escape violence only to find they are stuck in temporary housing with nowhere else to go,” she said.

That’s because the opportunities to move to the next step of safety in long-term accommodation are non-existent.

READ ALSO Kristy McBain says jobs, housing and connectivity are urgent priorities for regions

SouthernCare’s Pantry Club at Moruya is the first step for many people in crisis.

The organisation reports a dramatic increase in the number of people using its service five months ago.

“That tells me that there are people out there who need help,” Pantry Club manager Pamela Reseigh said.

She wants Eurobodalla Shire Council to hold a community summit and consider developing properties not zoned residential.

“There’s so much land around here,” Ms Reseigh said.

Horse float and car

Some people have been living at the campground since the start of the pandemic. Photo: Karyn Starmer.

Eurobodalla Mayor Matthew Hatcher drove a mass mailout to secondary property homeowners last month.

His letter called on people with a secondary property to put their homes into the rental market, and it caught the attention of regional councils across Australia.

He says it worked because some homeowners didn’t realise the problem existed.

Cr Hatcher said regional housing was in crisis and the time for action was now.

At a meeting of all council departments last month, he asked for ideas “today”.

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“That’s because next week is another week with a family on the street,” he said.

Cr Hatcher said the housing crisis was a national issue.

“For me this is about everybody (and) we’ve got to make sure that we all work together,” he said.

The new disaster does not discriminate and has broken the stereotype attached to homelessness, according to Cr Hatcher.

“There are teachers who moved here to take up jobs who had to sleep in their car and shower at school because they didn’t have anywhere to live,” he said.

“I know lots of people who have jobs who have nowhere to go.

“We have a new general manager moving to our shire and they’re struggling to find a rental.”

Camp at North Head

Eurobodalla Mayor Mat Hatcher says the new disaster does not discriminate and has broken the stereotype attached to homelessness. Photo: Karyn Starmer.

Cr Hatcher is looking at all options, including the council acquiring and developing land.

“I’ve asked for a map of any land that council has that we could work with the state and federal governments on,” he said.

With new developments, Cr Hatcher said it was the council’s responsibility to negotiate for the community.

“If we need to concede 2 two per cent in envelope space but we’re going to get affordable housing, then that’s the type of development (we need to get),” he said.

“It’s always a negotiation.”

This approach to development of affordable housing in the Eurobodalla was pivotal to the appointment of the shire’s new general manager.

The new recruit proposed a State Government collaboration and gathering of all the land in the Eurobodalla to provide social and affordable housing.

“They are very proactive, which was one of the things that drew me to them,” Cr Hatcher said.

In the meantime, the council will “look kindly” on development applications that include affordable housing.

“We’re trying to get smaller dwellings (that) target the health industry because we have the hospital coming and we’re going to need more nurses,” Cr Hatcher said.

“There’s nowhere that someone who is young and entering into nursing can afford.

“We’ve got to be proactive in thinking about the future.”

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Your comments are valid as a similar was experienced also, and all the issues going to court to make the former tenants liable the “SYSTEM” works against the owners of the property. Unfortunately, there is “TOO MUCH LEVERAGE” by the Courts with respect to those and I must stipulate “unequivocally” not all those that lease properties are negligent in their responsibilities to look after the property that actually belongs to another. Management Fees to Licensed agents are also very Lazy, and when accepting this responsibility there also is very limited action the Owners are able to “LEGALLY” SEEK recourse, so this again is a “SYSTEM” design FAULT, All Levels of government are responsible for the housing of its citizens not just the one or the General Public that works hard to save and accumulate for their retirement later on in life, SAFER to invest in Precious metals or the Share Market.

The housing crisis has many components, and I’d like to share our reasons why we have removed our house from renting. First, of our renters, maybe 5, only 1 looked after the house to an acceptable level. So that includes the garden, letting us know they had pets, reporting accidental damage, increasing the size of the people in the household, damaging the property intentionally, and lying about all sorts of issues. One of the biggest problems was the real estate agent; they did not check the property regularly even though they claimed they did, they paid the bond back without doing a final inspection, accepted damage to the house and not organising repairs, bought a high cost/energy inefficient dishwasher without our consent, and quite a few others eg saying the renter didn’t have a dog when we were looking at it as we called. They did this and still claimed their 9% management fee. In the end we spent $15k repairing the house and it would have been double if we didn’t do most of it ourselves. According to our last agent, a good renter pays on time, but that is not a good renter. A good renter pays on time and looks after the property. On our side, we always approved repairs as required, we participated in a low income housing scheme once and the damage was of the worst examples, our rent increases was limited to $5-10 a year, and we approved fair requests for upgrades eg block out blinds in the front room. As a result, we will never go back to renting our house out.

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