Victorians share first first
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Victorians share first first

Dec 21, 2023

Terrified tenants are sharing their stories to the state government today as part of an inquiry into Victoria’s rental market.

A tenant with a PhD in housing markets and urban planning fears she will end up living under a bridge, while another renter has mushrooms growing in her bathroom.

Another tenant recounted being forced to live in his car for two months despite earning a full-time wage as every rental application he lodged was rejected.

The horror rental stories shared in Victoria’s parliament on Tuesday were just some of the almost 1000 submissions to an inquiry into the state’s rental and housing affordability crisis, led by the Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee.

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Dr Angela Ballard, a long-time renter and expert in urban planning, broke into tears as she revealed she “looked at railway bridges” to see if there would be a safe place for her to camp if she were to become homeless.

She said she was paying “huge amounts” for a home at the bottom of the market and feared her savings would not last many years.

Erin Buckley who rents in Melbourne’s western suburbs has to check her bathroom daily after spotting mushrooms growing in the room.

In the past six weeks Ms Buckley said she’d lodged more than 50 rental applications between $400 to $500 a week to find her family a new home, but had yet to land a better alternative.

“I’m regularly seeing mould and major water damage,” Ms Buckley said.

One property she inspected asking for $480 a week had “chest-high” mould growing in one of the bathrooms with no plans to resolve the issue before tenants moved in.

Tarek Bieganski, who has rented in Melbourne for eight years, was one of the tenants who spoke about his period of homelessness after he was pushed out of the rental market.

When he moved out of a sharehouse and was looking for a new place to live, Mr Bieganski said he ended up having no choice but to live in his car for two months as his rental applications were continuously knocked back.

“I just couldn’t get a place. I had the funds, the employment, the references but it was a vague ‘we just don’t want you,’” Mr Bieganski said.

“(It’s) quite a bizarre situation to be doing quite well money wise and still be homeless.”

In his public submission, Mr Bieganski said he was currently spending around 46 per cent of his wage on rent, which forced him to give up private health insurance and his gym membership.

“I understand supply and demand and things like that but it is a tough pill to swallow when your rent’s going up 20-30 per cent year on year,” he said.

“Just like everyone, I’m struggling with rising rent.

“In my years of renting, it’s become clear that there is a distinct power imbalance.”

Another tenant who shared her story to the Committee was Christine Miller who has rented in Melbourne for around 30 years and has struggled to find accommodation that is suitable to her mobility issues.

Ms Miller was living in Brunswick for 11 years until it became too expensive, forcing her and her housemate to move further away from to city to Reservoir.

“Now, the exact same thing is happening in Reservoir,” Ms Miller said.

“It makes me wonder what’s going to happen to me in 10 years when I can no longer afford to live anywhere and I have to travel huge distances to access my regular health (providers).”

Tenants are facing significant increases in their rent year on year.

She added that in this climate and possibly forever, renters had no power in the market.

“I don’t believe that we’re actually considered people. I think we’re considered more of a commodity because we’re more part of a recipe to make money and we’re easily replaced,” she said.

“If you find a real estate agent that will actually back a tenant over a property owner, it’d be a miracle because I’ve never seen it.”

A woman who missed out on speaking on Tuesday submitted to the government-led inquiry, Lauren Fawcett, 31, was terrified of becoming another “older homeless woman”.

Ms Fawcett said her rent increased by $100 per week in February this year, and if it were to rise again, she would have to move.

“It will push (me) further West into a cheaper suburb – and who will I be displacing for this house? Where will they go,” she said.

She added that there was “no doubt” a vulnerable family being forced from their home into a tent or onto a friend’s couch if she followed the “chain all the way down”.

Other submissions were from real estate agencies, landlords, not-for-profit organisations, university student unions and other stakeholders.

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The Committee will also be looking at the barriers to first home ownership and how this is impacting the rental market as well as the effects of short-term stay accommodation.

Not-for-profit and community organisations like Tenants Victoria will be speaking to the Committee on Wednesday.

The Committee will submit their final report on the crisis by 17 November.

Renters and landlords can still have their voices heard by sending in their submissions to the federal government who’s conducting a nationwide inquiry into the worsening rental crisis.

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