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WA’s ugly rental crisis exposed as hundreds battle for small unit, while families face living in caravans

WA’s ugly rental crisis exposed as hundreds battle for small unit, while families face living in caravans
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Western Australia’s rental market is so overcrowded that real estate agencies are smashing open home records, while desperate parents are turning to secondhand caravans just to keep a roof over their family’s heads.

Perth’s vacancy rate sits at an “extremely tight” 0.7 per cent and has been below 1 per cent since August last year.

A vacancy rate of between 2.5 and 3.5 per cent is considered by industry experts to represent a balanced market.

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The dire situation for renters was on full display at the weekend, when more than 104 individual groups toured a “stock standard” two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit in Joondalup, in Perth’s north.

It was an agency record for LJ Hooker Joondalup, residential sales representative John Fogarty told 7NEWS.com.au, with eager punters forming a snaking queue 30 minutes before the home was set to be opened.

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Even priced at $480 per week, Fogarty said people — including families who require more space — are willing to pay because they are desperate to land a home.

“Families are being forced to make changes to what their lifestyle was because they can’t get something that’s appropriate,” he said.

Fogarty said it was not uncommon to see employed house hunters with a good rental history at dozens of openings, with many now resigned to missing out and losing hope they will ever be the successful applicant.

More than 100 groups toured a 2×1 unit in Joondalup, showing just how tough the rental market is at the moment. Credit: John Fogarty/LH Hooker Joondalup

A Perth mum on the hunt for a rental has been left so frustrated by frequent knockbacks she is now looking to purchase a secondhand caravan that will be home to her and her two young children.

Maddy Baseley’s situation has reached a desperate level with Christmas on the horizon and just weeks until she is homeless, with her lease expiring in January.

She told 7NEWS.com.au she isn’t fussy about where she lives and has submitted applications for more than 50 rental properties, with no luck.

Fed up and stressed, she is now looking at buying a motorhome that will keep her kids, aged just three and four, safe.

“It’s a last resort,” Baseley told 7NEWS.com.au.

Her family has launched a GoFundMe campaign on her behalf, with a goal to raise $30,000.

“We know the cost of living is hurting everyone but we would greatly appreciate anything you can spare to help,” Maddy’s mum Bethwyn said.

Maddy Baseley is considering buying a caravan to call home amid WA’s rental crisis. Credit: Supplied/GoFundMe

Even with WA’s rental vacancy rate sitting below one per cent for more than a year, Real Estate Institute of WA chief executive Cath Hart said there are few signs of improvement in the short term.

“The imbalance between supply and demand is the greatest factor affecting the rental market at the moment,” Hart said.

“While the decline in number of rental properties appears to have stabilised, it is not increasing.”

Eastern states’ interest in WA isn’t at its peak but Hart said out-of-town investors are still snapping up properties.

Fogarty said buyers from outside of WA are hungry for stock and were one of the “big forces” driving up prices for buyers and renters.

‘Not the saviour we’d hoped’

Hart said building completions also have not “been the saviour we were hoping for a year ago”.

“In the last three financial years, WA has averaged 14,000 new dwellings per year. During that time, the number of households has grown by about 60,000,” she said.

“In addition, the ongoing delays in the building industry are keeping people in their rental properties longer, impacting the usual turnover of the market.”

State Government action

The state government recently announced a suite of measures aimed at pumping up supply and offering struggling West Australians a lifeline.

Earlier this month, it was revealed stressed and in-debt tenants at risk of eviction will be eligible for up to $5000 as part of a multimillion-dollar rent relief scheme.

Premier Roger Cook said the $24.4 million rent relief program will help financially vulnerable tenants “doing it tough” stay in their private rental homes and “get back on their feet”.

“The WA Rent Relief Program will help to keep a roof over the heads of families that have hit hard times,” he said.

Roger Cook says a $24.4 million rent relief program will help financially vulnerable tenants “doing it tough” stay in their private rental homes and “get back on their feet”. Credit: AAP

Airbnb owners and other short-term rental accommodation providers have been offered nation-leading incentives of $10,000 to make their properties available to long-term tenants in Western Australia.

And in October, it was revealed a star team of bureaucrats within the Department of Treasury would form a dedicated Housing Supply Unit.

One of its main goals will be to develop measures that boost supply and improve choice and affordability.

“The Unit builds on our Government’s significant recent investments to boost housing supply and affordability, including the $750 million housing package in the 2023-24 Budget and the recent extension of the off-the-plan transfer duty concession to apartments under construction,” Treasure Rita Saffioti said.

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