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What it's like being poor in Australia's crazy housing bubble

Article (975 words) posted on 20 Aug 2018 by Rosie Williams

This ad by a Melbourne based real estate agent was removed by them the same day it went live after complaints from a range of people on Twitter (including myself).

Most of the debate about housing is framed around the recent realisation that younger middle class people are now worried they may not be able to afford to buy their own houses, shock horror! Contrasted with this view is the story of what the poor (who have never had access to the property market) are faring.

This picture of me (below) at a hackfest from a few years ago shows no sign of the difficulties I was (and still am) experiencing trying to make a living for myself after decades spent raising and educating a special needs child. I spent the weekend hacking for free for Random Hacks of Kindness in Sydney's swish Commonwealth Bank offices. At the time I had temporarily rented someone's laundry. The room was still being used as a laundry, unfortunately, with people from the flat wandering in and out at will to do their washing while I tried to sleep, work or relax.

Random Hacks of Kindness team working on open data site for Ocius Chief Exec Robert Dane

Unless you're unlucky enough to be really struggling with housing you may not be aware of the ways the housing market is straining to deal with record demands now placed on it. You may think this picture below is some kind of joke but it's just the extreme end of the overcrowding and exploitation of vulnerable renters that is is going on nation-wide.

The Newtown Neighbourhood Centre maintains a list of what it calls 'low cost housing', that is, properties that rent for under $250 a week or 100% of what Newstart recipients receive. One day when I'm rich enough, I hope to be able to afford their low cost housing options!

For cheaper accommodations, a quick search on Gumtree shows a large number of ads where houses, units and motel rooms have been turned into backpacker type set ups where every room of the house is filled with beds, including the living rooms or balconies.

In this market properties distinguish themselves by claiming there's no one sleeping in the living room!

So far I've managed to avoid this kind of set up by renting in guest houses also known as rooming or boarding houses. I've lived in several of these, the most expensive of which is in North Sydney and functions as a cheap motel that also offers long term housing to anyone for as long as they can afford to pay $330 a week in rent.

I moved into such a place recently thinking I was moving up in the world only to find myself confronted every morning with this!

The young man from the room next to me used to leave the share bathroom like this every day.

Though many complaints were made, no one seemed to know who the culprit was till I passed him on his way out on this particular occasion- it was the young bloke renting the room next to mine! His guilty conscience gave him away and he left the motel a few days later.

Perhaps it was scenes like this that prompted the owner of the heritage listed motel on the central coast to install both shower and toilet in the same tiny rooms they rent with nothing to separate one side of the room from the other. Their lucky tenants get to eat and poo in the same room where they sleep but I guess you can't knock the convenience! I didn't take any pictures so you'll have to use your imagination for that one.

It's hard not to laugh at the preposterous extremes that have been fuelled by Australia's policies of negative gearing but of course there's nothing funny about any of this. It is the clear consequence of increased demand due to our reliance on overseas students as our fourth highest export earner which, when coupled with negative gearing has created the current housing bubble, benefiting the rich while simultaneously driving down access to decent housing for the poor.

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