Research Reports and Evaluations - Page 15

The housing affordability trends for the City of Whittlesea combined with the low proportion of public rental stock in the area indicates the increasing importance that private rental support programs will assume for low income households into the future. Staff and external providers consulted both reinforced the significant current service assistance gaps for individuals and households living in the Whittlesea and northern suburban surrounding areas. Existing case loads of government funded private rental support programs were reported to be limited in scope. Those who are able to be provided with housing assistance funds were considered to be ‘just the tip’ of the need and many more with high needs have to be turned away. and had attempted to seek support from a number of services in the area. The reasons clients interviewed sought assistance was reported to relate to the inadequacy of their existing dwelling either in quality or affordability, relationship breakdowns and needing to flee from family violence, being a new arrival in Australia with limited support networks and understanding of the private rental market, and to cater for a growing family. For some clients, it was the first time they had experienced difficulties in being able to access private rental properties whilst for others their experience of housing insecurity and homelessness has been more enduring. Regardless of the reasons for seeking support and their past rental histories, all found it difficult to move to a new property on a limited income without any savings to pay for the rent in advance, particularly when still paying for an existing rental property and when they had no other sources of financial or family support. We cannot meet the full demand for services. Moreover, it is much easier to house families and or couples than single people. There really are no private rental properties that a single person can access at an affordable rate – there is nowhere to house this group [External stakeholder]. The quality and size of the housing stock in the Whittlesea area was also considered highly problematic from an affordability perspective, particularly for single person households given the limited number of one bedroom properties available. Most of the properties are 2 to 3 bedrooms making them more expensive to rent for a single person who is not able to share. Many of the houses that low income households can afford and are offered will be in poor condition, with some requiring significant maintenance. Just raising enough money to move when you are on a low income is the most difficult thing [Client interview]. I was sharing with other people before coming to the service. I have always been able to get into a rental property before this [Client interview]. The difficulties for me began in 2010 – I had to move out of the previous property. Once you fall out it is hard to get back in again [Client interview]. The critical issue is with the maintenance of the properties. The houses require quite a lot of maintenance and are often in poor quality – drafts coming in which cost a lot to heat running up high utility bills [Staff focus group]. I have had a long-term struggle with housing – I’ve been homeless and in that space for a number of years [Client interview]. The reported experiences of clients seeking help from housing agencies in the area confirmed this perspective. All clients discussed the difficulties they faced in accessing the private rental market 8