The number of householdsseeking assistance for rent arrears at one Bendigo housing agency has grown by 35 per cent recently, with the pressures of Christmas and the back-to-school period among the factors leading to hardship.
Haven; Home, Safe has experienced a recent influx of people needing help to meet their rental costs, a trend they see each each.
Historically, arrears on the organisation’s own properties increase by 38 per cent over January and February.
Kirsty Waller, manager of ARC Justice’s Housing Justice program, said she also saw such an increase at this time of year.
Ms Waller said the program usually assisted people with rental matters in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal about twice a day on its two weekly sitting days, but that could increase by 100 per cent or more.
The expenses of the Christmas period were a factor, she said, and the costs associated with the increasing use of electricity in the heat possibly also contributed.
Ms Waller said the end of the former back to school bonus was also likely a factor in the financial strain some families experienced in the summer period, as was the end of some seasonal work.
Haven’s acting chief operating officer Rachel Gellatly said people who had experienced trauma or loss could also find themselves in more difficulty, because these issues tended to come to the fore more during the holiday period.
Ms Gellatly said falling into arrears in rent could have a significant impact, due to stress and feeling vulnerable about housing.
“Ultimately, if it’s not managed, it can lead to homelessness,” Ms Gellatly said.
But she said there were plenty of options for assistance. Ms Gellatly advised anyone who thought they would have trouble paying rent should contact their tenancy manager as soon as possible to discuss options, such as a repayment plan.
She said Haven could also offer support with advocacy, access to such initiatives as the private rental access program, and even financial support.
Ms Waller said Housing Justice offered the expertise to negotiate with agents and at VCAT, and could also refer people to financial counselling and welfare agencies.
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