Housing rental ‘disaster’ entrenching West Australian tenants in ‘cycle of poverty’

For Renna Gayde, home means everything. “It’s my safe base. It’s a place where I can take care of my children, it’s a place where I can be safe,” said Ms. Gayde.

Important points:

  • Rents have risen and vacancy rates are at a record low
  • Some tenants say this keeps them in a “cycle of poverty”.
  • The government says it is working to increase the supply of housing

The 45-year-old mother of four daughters was evicted from a rental home when her partner died in 2014.

Her life got out of hand.

“I lost my job. After I lost my apartment, I lost my children too, they were looked after and eventually I lost my mind,” she said.

Four years ago, Ms. Gayde moved into a social housing unit that enabled her to rebuild her life – something she would always be grateful for.

Now, two years after completing social work and caring for her youngest daughter, she is ready to move on with her life.

Renna Gayde has to turn down her job because she fears losing her council housing. (

ABC News: Eliza Laschon


But Ms. Gayde feels “stuck” in social housing as she faces one of the most competitive rental markets Perth has seen in decades.

“For each rental, how many dozen applications are there?” Mrs. Gayde said.

“A single woman who previously lost her home, has no full-time job and has two house cats – how am I an attractive tenant to anyone?”

“Is there enough to eat in the closet? Will I run out of gas? ‘

Ms. Gayde cannot earn more than $ 28,000 a year to be eligible for her social housing unit.

“I barely hold on to the end, but I’m really stuck where I can’t afford to take the job that I’m offered because then I’ll go over my hat and lose my security,” she said.

“Every other stress is huge. Can I afford my medication? Is there enough food in the closet? Will I run out of gas? I live in a constant state of stress.”

Ms. Gayde said this meant that not only her family but many others were caught in a “cycle of poverty”.

“People who get stuck and it’s a cycle and poverty that gets worse. With every bill I can’t pay … there’s another payment,” said Ms. Gayde.

Tenants who need assistance can contact the following address:

  • Consumer Protection Department – Evacuation and Rental Advice – 1300 304 054
  • Circle Green Community Legal – for everyone rental advice – 6148 3636
  • WAConnect.org.au – for emergency aid in your area
  • WA Financial Advisor – https://financialcounsellors.org
  • National Debt Helpline 1800 007 007

Ms. Gayde has participated in a research project called 100 Families WA that seeks to understand the experiences of people living in and leaving entrenched disadvantage.

“While each story is unique, the barriers and obstacles for so many families have been exacerbated by the current rental crisis,” she said.

“This crisis has been made visible by the COVID situation, but it is not a new or unforeseen problem.

“The problem of insecure housing and homelessness has long affected many families in WA.”

Slight improvement in the vacancy rate

The vacancy rate in the Perth metropolitan area has improved slightly in recent months, but remained just above the record low of 1 percent in April, according to the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA).

Rental rates have risen significantly since the McGowan government’s COVID-19 emergency moratorium on rent increases ended in March.

Michelle Mackenzie, the executive director of Shelter WA, doesn’t gloss over what this has meant to some families.

“The lifting of the COVID moratorium on rents and evictions has exposed a new section of the WA community to housing stress,” she said.

“Since then, rents have risen by 20 percent last year [and] Another $ 70 a week is not feasible for families who are struggling. This forces many families into enormous debt.

“This is not a rent bottleneck, this is a real estate crisis.”

According to Vinnies WA, recommendations for its accommodation services had increased by over 50 percent compared to the same period last year and were now at an unprecedented level.

Growing waiting list for residential properties

Charitable property manager Paula O’Leary said most referrals are for victims of family and domestic violence, but housing stress has increased in other cohorts as well.

A closeup picture of a woman with long brown hair standing in front of a tree.According to Paula O’Leary, the demand for housing services is at an unprecedented level. (

ABC News: Eliza Laschon


“We see an increased need in our other areas such as the 55+, people with disabilities and migrant families,” said Ms. O’Leary.

“Over 50 percent of the services are people or households who live with a cognitive disability such as Alzheimer’s, suffer from brain injuries and dementia.”

Ms. O’Leary said 15 percent of people in need are families in the private rental market, usually with fixed incomes who have been “priced out” by property sales or the affordability of rental walking tours.

“We need more [social] Live, “she said.

“There are currently more than 16,000 [families] on the residential waiting list and that number is growing. “

Letting “tightness”, not “crisis”: ministers

WA’s new Housing Secretary John Carey said there was no doubt that Perth had seen a “tighter rental market” that could not be “ignored”.

“That’s why we launched a $ 30 million home allowance rebate program that has helped 8,000 people,” said Carey.

But he stopped accepting the term “crisis”.

“There were certainly some significant conditions that caused this tightness,” he said.

“It is the growth in the number of people who have returned to Western Australia during the pandemic. We are in exceptional circumstances.

A close-up photo of WA Housing Minister John Carey with trees in the background.John Carey stopped calling the rental market a “crisis”. (

ABC News: Eliza Laschon


“We understand that in order to ease the rental market, we need an increase in housing supply, and that is exactly what we are doing.”

Mr Carey pointed to record growth in home construction permits, which rose to 23,000 in the past 12 months thanks to state government building bonus grants.

“In the next 12 to 18 months all of these new homes will be completed and launched. This will leave people out of the rental market and move into new homes … [then] There will be an exemption in the home rental market, “he said.

WA currently has around 36,000 social housing.

Tight hardware store a “challenge”

The 10-year housing strategy of the state government has set itself the goal of increasing stocks by 6 percent or more than 2,000 social housing by 2030.

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Mr Carey said he is “looking at all possible options” to accelerate social public housing.

“But my challenge today is to look into this cramped hardware store where trades and brickies are hard to secure, what alternative options I can do to meet those goals.

“I’m bringing the modular and pre-built market together to see how we can leverage this sector to create faster programs.”

Mr Carey said he had received no feedback that the rental market was keeping people in a “cycle of poverty”.

He said the Department of Housing would work with cases like Ms. Gayde’s to ensure no one was “kicked out” of their homes.

“They are trying to work with their tenants on a case-by-case basis to examine possible options,” he said.

If someone in social housing no longer meets the income criteria for staying in their home, the department offers support and up to 12 months to secure alternative housing.

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