Sky struggles to compete for a new rental in Melbourne, in a trend that is ‘worsening’

Sky has carried out more than 50 home inspections in Melbourne’s outer south over the past three months, looking for a new private rental for her and her five children.

She pays $520 a week for her current four-bedroom house, which is around half of her income on single-parent allowance, so she can’t afford to pay much more.

She said most four-bedroom homes in the Frankston area, where she was looking, cost at least $560 a week.

The 38-year-old begins to cry as she describes the broken back door lock, the tiny rooms and the lack of heating or air conditioning in her current home.

“I have my children asking for a new home, [saying] “Mom, I don’t feel safe in this house,” she said.

She said there were at least 30 people at every inspection she went to in Melbourne’s southern and south-eastern suburbs, where rent has traditionally been below the Melbourne average.

“These are people with incomes who have tried the same thing I did, trying for months and still getting nowhere because of the price,” she said.

Community organizations say pressures on rent affordability have increased around Frankston.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

Like many others, Sky has also noticed the price of other things rising.

She can rattle off cost increases for every household expense, from cordial to rice crackers, and said she only ate one good meal a day, so she had enough for her children.

She can’t afford the internet, so she brings her children with special needs to Frankston Community Services (CSF) to use the internet for their medical appointments.

“I have to raise my hand and say ‘do you have any fruits and vegetables, do you have anything for recess please? “Because I just couldn’t do it,” she said.

CSF director Steve Phillips said the organization helps more than 10,000 people a year and the number is growing.

Steve Phillips stands in an office, wearing a plaid button-up shirt.
Steve Phillips says more people are asking Frankston for help.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

“The vast majority of people we see cannot work, and the payments they receive do not cover basic expenses, and what do we see? Basic expenses are increasing,” he said.

“It’s getting worse and worse, it’s getting scary.”

He said all of this leaves less money for housing.

Hundreds of people need legal help

Frankston is part of the Dunkley fringe constituency, which encompasses the outer Melbourne Bay suburbs of Frankston, Seaford and Mt Eliza and the outer suburban areas of Carrum Downs and Langwarrin.

It is held by ALP’s Peta Murphy, with a margin of 2.7%.

The Liberal candidate is Sharn Coombes, a lawyer and former candidate for the reality TV show Survivor.

Three corflutes for Labour, the United Australia Party and the Liberal Party sit side by side on a suburban green lawn.
Labor faces stiff competition to retain Dunkley’s fringe constituency.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

Data from the National Growth Areas Alliance (NGAA) found that 52% of residents in Victoria’s outer suburbs struggle to pay at least one bill, leaving them in what the NGAA calls “financial survival mode”.

This compared to 21% of residents of the outer suburbs nationally.

At the Peninsula Community Legal Centre, chief executive Jackie Galloway said a growing number of people in Dunkley were falling behind on their rent.

“It’s getting worse and worse,” she said.

“Rents are going up, the cost of living is going up, we’re not seeing wage growth and so people are really struggling to maintain their homes.”

Jackie Galloway smiles as she stands, dressed in a white shirt, outside the Peninsula Community Legal Center.
Jackie Galloway, director of the legal center, said lawyers were seeing more and more people struggling to pay their rent.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

Data from Tenancy Victoria confirms this.

The top tenants body has handled 331 tenancy legal cases in Dunkley over the past year, with 15 per cent of the cases going for eviction.

Victoria Tenant Community Engagement Manager Farah Farouque said most of them were in private tenancy.

“Dunkley’s electorate has traditionally included some of Victoria’s most affordable rental offerings, but we are seeing a tightening in rental markets across the country,” she said.

Last month, the ABC reported that the rental market across the country rose 4.7% in March, due to a lack of inventory.

Farah wearing a red blazer with her arms crossed.
Farah Farouque, Director of Community Engagement at Tenants Victoria.(ABC News: Barrie Pullen)

Housing prices are rising across the market

For those looking to buy a home and escape the rental market, the outlook isn’t much brighter.

Stu Anderson considers himself rather lucky – he owns a unit in Frankston and lives in a secure tenancy with his wife and three children.

Stu Anderson stands in front of his drums, his guitar slung around his neck.
Stu Anderson co-owns and runs a recording studio in Frankston.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

The couple were looking to buy a home, but said buyers had been drawn to larger blocks and proximity to the beach during the pandemic, driving up prices.

“It’s exploded in the COVID period and I don’t see them getting any cheaper,” he said.

“The demolished houses cost a million dollars.”

There’s even an upscale apartment building that overlooks Frankston’s foreshore, which locals say is a first.

Push for rail extension

The infrastructure is also highly valued by voters around Dunkley.

The Frankston committee lobbied for an extension of the electric railway line beyond Frankston, to Baxter.

The committee’s chief executive, Ginevra Hosking, said the extension was first proposed 92 years ago and there was bipartisan support in the last two elections, but nothing was done.

“We’re actually supporting a population the size of Canberra, and yet we’re quibbling over 5 kilometers of track,” she said.

A stretch of beach on a sunny day, with a few houses visible along a rolling hill.
Local groups are pushing for better infrastructure to connect the growing population around Frankston to the rest of Melbourne.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

She said the proposed extension would connect the train line to Frankston Hospital and the Peninsula campus of Monash University, as well as 23,800 Langwarrin residents and more than 160,000 Peninsula residents. Mornington.

“We need a better way for state and federal governments to work better, to understand the issues in outer suburbs like Frankston,” Ms Hosking said.

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