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Shelter WA workshop talks to Geraldton renters with disabilities during difficult economic period

Jamie ThannooGeraldton Guardian
Kirsten Whent and Donna Turner from Shelter WA.
Camera IconKirsten Whent and Donna Turner from Shelter WA. Credit: Jamie Thannoo

As rent prices in Geraldton and across WA soar and availability dwindles, one group in particular is facing significant pressure — renters with disabilities.

Housing advocacy organisation Shelter WA, with People With disability WA, held a workshop in Geraldton on Tuesday to talk with renters with disabilities about their experiences and provide advice on tenants’ rights and accessing support during this challenging time.

Project manager Donna Turner said three major themes were brought up during the discussions — financial troubles, challenges with communication, and stress from inspections.

Ms Turner said many people with disabilities were on lower incomes, and increasing rent prices was especially difficult for those relying on welfare payments.

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She also said people with disabilities can feel intimidated and concerned that they would be misunderstood by their housing providers.

“We had one person involved in our project who doesn’t read, so when notices come from their housing provider, that person is quite stressed, they don’t know what’s in that letter so they assume the worst,” she said.

“I would take a bossy auntie who knows how to speak their jargon,” one participant said about how they handle challenging conversations with providers.

In Geraldton and many other WA regional towns, an additional challenge is a a need for services accommodating Aboriginal people and others who speak English as a second language.

“A lot of people who are not comfortable with spoken English or using online forms, they don’t know what else to do to report repairs and maintenance to the housing authorities,” Ms Turner said.

“What we find is that some people are turning to advocacy to report something basic that they should be able to do really simply, and if they don’t seek out advocacy, how do they report or find information?”

Ms Turner said there were many things housing providers could do to make the system better suited to people with disabilities, but also acknowledged social housing providers were also under pressure to oversee many renters with limited resources, and needed more support themselves.

In WA there are about 111,000 renters with disabilities, and, according to a 2018 study, Australian renters with disabilities are almost twice as likely to be served a no-grounds eviction.

Shelter WA will be holding an online workshop on November 16 to talk to renters with disabilities across WA.

To attend, contact 0456 162 897 or visit www.rentingwithdisability.org.au .

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