LOW INCOME: Can we afford to rent in the Clarence any more?
RISING rental costs in the Clarence Valley are eroding the very fabric of our society according to the CEO of Anglicare North Coast.
A shortage of affordable housing available for low-income households can create stress which can escalate into bigger problems for society the Anglicare North Coast interim CEO Leon Ankersmit said.
The latest Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot of the region confirmed the number of properties available for rent in the Clarence Valley has remained stable but Mr Ankersmit said that's not good when you have a growing population.
"The median rent has gone up," he said. "There is more competition among applications."
Mr Ankersmit said this scenario makes it difficult for low-income families who are being overlooked for rental properties in favour of those with higher-paying jobs.
"If you haven't got somewhere to live and you can't put food on the table, it increases incidents of domestic violence... because there is stress in the family," he said.
"It increases things like self medicating with alcohol and drugs, there are people suffering from the affects of (not being able to find housing)."
Anglicare's research revealed there is only a small percentage of houses available in the Clarence for low-income families. The snapshot divides people in low-income households by the type of household they are and what kind of income they have and what is available to rent.
For a couple with two children on Newstart, there was just one house available to rent in their price range.
For a couple on the age pension, there were seven houses and for a single person with no children on minimum wage, there were five houses available at the time the report was completed.
Mr Ankersmit said their clients are telling them there are more and more applicants for properties.
"This is the sort of thing you see in metropolitan areas," he said.
"The increase in demand for people coming into the area is probably related to the infrastructure projects in the Clarence Valley.
"There are some major infrastructure works going on in the Clarence Valley for the next number of years."
Mr Ankersmit said while rental property numbers in the Clarence Valley had remained steady, the area needs an increase to cater for the growing demand.
"The people who are a little marginal in terms of income or employment, those people will be less likely to be successful," he said.
"If you have a tenant history with any sort of history in terms of references, you're going to be at the bottom in terms of applicants."
Mr Ankersmit said the Clarence Valley has always had a relatively low socio-economic make-up on average and it's those people who are suffering.
"There are fairly sobering consequences for those families that are being told they have to move and find somewhere else. There is nowhere else," he said.
"In some cases, these are people who have lived here for generations."
Mr Ankersmit said the money flowing into the Clarence Valley economy from the infrastructure projects is a boon, but it comes at a cost to some in the community.
"We've seen an increase in demand for emergency relief," he said.
"They can't survive financially from payday to payday. People are looking for groceries and vouchers because they are paying so much a week in rent (they can't afford it)."
Mr Ankersmit said he is concerned rent prices will rise with the influx of people into the community and never go back down.
"It's nice if you own a property and you can see a nice investment return and I don't criticise that," he said.
"But it does create difficulty for people in our community."