‘All they want for Christmas is their own home’: Geraldton families battling to keep a roof over their heads

Michael RobertsGeraldton Guardian
There are more than 17,300 WA households on the social housing waiting list, and 50 per cent of low-income households in WA are experiencing rental stress, according to the WA Council of Social Services.
Camera IconThere are more than 17,300 WA households on the social housing waiting list, and 50 per cent of low-income households in WA are experiencing rental stress, according to the WA Council of Social Services. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Geraldton’s rental market remains in crisis, with those close to the ground saying the predicament is at its worst point since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vacancy rates in the city fell to 1.1 per cent in October, down from 1.5 per cent the previous year.

A vacancy rate between 2.5 and 3.5 per cent represents a balanced market, according to the Real Estate Institute of WA.

Karloo resident Georgia Miller, who is expecting a baby in March, said she was scared by the thought of not being able to find a home after her landlord decided to end the lease on her rental next month.

Karloo resident Georgia Miller said she is offering more than the asking price on rental applications but still can’t find a place.
Camera IconKarloo resident Georgia Miller said she is offering more than the asking price on rental applications but still can’t find a place. Credit: Facebook

Ms Miller said she had lived in the home for five years and had never missed a rent payment, but wasn’t given any explanation as to why she had to move out.

“I’m going for houses I would have never gone for before and I’ve offered $30 more rent on every rental I’ve applied for, but I’m not getting anything,” she said.

“I went into the Department of Housing as well, put my name down there, but it’s a 10-year wait.

“There just isn’t many options at the moment.

“You can’t tell people what do to with their house, but I feel like a lot of owners are taking advantage of this situation at the moment to get a rent increase.”

A Wandina resident, who didn’t want to be named, said their family had had to move out of a rental when the owner sold the property in February.

Since then, they haven’t had any luck finding a home and are now moving between friends’ places to keep a roof over their heads.

“I’ve been very depressed, my kids are even feeling it — we aren’t stable,” the Wandina resident said.

“All they want for Christmas is their own home. If I didn’t have friends and family to stay with I would be living out in my car.”

REIWA Mid West branch chair Peta McKenzie
Camera IconREIWA Mid West branch chair Peta McKenzie Credit: Supplied

REIWA Mid West branch chair Peta McKenzie, pictured, said she had never seen fewer rentals on the market in her office.

She said several landlords were not renewing leases because they wanted to put their homes on the market to take advantage of rising house prices.

“We’ve seen family members purchase property for people to rent because they haven’t been able to secure anything else,” she said.

“It’s a really strange time at the moment.”

Vinnies WA said the tight rental market was forcing people into homelessness, as it was almost impossible to find alternative accommodation options.

Norma Broadhurst, who runs Vinnies WA’s emergency assistance program in Geraldton, said tenants were facing an uphill battle with rising rents and the end of the State Government’s moratorium on rental evictions.

“It’s getting worse — people are desperate,” she said.

“Families are sleeping in cars, the women’s refuge is always full.

“We are getting people from Perth coming up looking for emergency accommodation.”

There are more than 17,300 WA households on the social housing waiting list, and 50 per cent of low-income households in WA are experiencing rental stress, according to the WA Council of Social Services.

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