Moving in with the neighbours
Decades of house price rises will force families to share with other families and increase homelessness
By Alex Easton
Families will share homes with other families as they battle to keep a roof over their heads in the high-priced housing market of 2036, a financial counsellor has suggested.
And, unless the State Government starts investing heavily in public housing, homeless rates will soar as low income workers get pushed out of the housing market altogether.
Terry Harvey of the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre said the trend of families living together was already starting to gain traction on the Northern Rivers as residents struggled against high rents and limited supply in the rental market.
“A lot of my clients are paying 60 to 70 per cent of their income to service the rent; seven or eight years ago it was 35pc,” Mr Harvey said.
Mr Harvey said he had even been contacted by ‘a couple’ of families living at Byron Bay who were handing over all their pay, just to cover the rent.
“That sort of thing would have been unheard of (a few years ago) and these people survive only because they have children who can work and pay board,” he said. “That doesn’t provide a comfortable lifestyle.”
Mr Harvey said the problem of high rents and a shortage of rental properties was exacerbated by a lack of Government-owned public housing and the fact rental assistance rates from the Government changed little over the past 15 years.
The trend was forcing people who traditionally would have rented their own homes down the property scale into caravan parks, while the people who traditionally lived in caravan parks were being forced out onto the street.
One solution being tried by families was to share their homes with other families.
“There is a trend towards more group households and sharing rent between families is becoming more common,” he said. “You get two low-income families into a four-bedroom house and they share the rooms and costs as well.”
That style of living created a new set of social challenges which would only intensify as the practice became more common as rents continued to rise, with issues around safety and protection of children, where families were living with strangers, as well as potential for conflict between family groups.
Mr Harvey said the solution was big investment in public housing by government to make sure low income families had their own homes.