MORE people are at risk of homelessness after central Victorian rental prices rose significantly during 2020, support services have warned.
New data shows median rents rose across Greater Bendigo in the final quarter of 2020.
This matched the pattern across central Victoria, which saw median rental prices rise.
Mount Alexander and Mount Macedon Shires were particularly hard hit, with rising median rents. Both shires were among those with lowest proportion of affordable housing in Victoria.
Support services say central Victoria's rising rents and a shortage of properties are causing stress, poor health and putting people at risk of homelessness.
They've called for government at all levels to make changes to combat the growing problem.
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Anglicare Victoria North Central regional director Michael Oerlemans said the situation made house hunting a "vicious cycle" for some of the most vulnerable, worsening physical and mental health. This then made it even harder to find suitable housing, he said.
Mr Oerlemans said rising rents were hitting young people and vulnerable families hardest, some of whom were going without food to pay rent.
He called for government to address large scale issues perpetuating the problem, such as negative gearing.
Mr Oerlemans said local government also needed to make sure there was a diverse housing mix, to suit smaller families and young people.
He said the housing market was currently structured to support purchasers and investors, making it hard for renters.
Centrelink payments failing to keep pace with rising rents had made the situation even more pronounced, Mr Oerlemans said.
He urged anyone struggling to find a home to contact Anglicare, or Haven; Home, Safe.
"Looking for somewhere to live can become a bit of a full time job. You're in that environment of stress every day, not knowing where you're going to find a house," Mr Oerlemans said.
Median rents increased by 4.5 per cent in the Loddon Mallee in the December 2020 quarter.
It rounded off a year in which median rents increased by 7.8 per cent across the region, a rise only equalled by Gippsland.
Greater Bendigo rentals jumped in median price by as much as 15.8 per cent, for a one bedroom flat.
In regional Victoria the proportion of affordable rental availabilities plummeted, decreasing by 34.6 per cent in the December quarter.
Greater Bendigo lost 111 affordable rental properties in the year to December 2020.
Across the municipality median rent for a one bed flat rose by 15.8 per cent, to $220 - the largest increase. The median rent for a two bed flat rose by 3.7 per cent, for a two bed house it rose by 7.1 per cent to $300.
For a three bed house the median rent jumped by 6.1 per cent, to $350.
Council to Homeless Persons chief executive Jenny Smith said for most people on low income, a lack of affordable property meant homelessness.
Ms Smith said the data showed property was not available for people on low income, even regional cities like Bendigo which people perceived as affordable.
She said it was not viable that someone on JobSeeker would need to spend 62 per cent of their income to rent in Bendigo.
Ms Smith said a shortage of rentals in Bendigo meant people in insecure work, vulnerable situations, or low incomes, were unable to compete in a competitive property market.
She said the rent shortage rose out of a whole system problem, which included low interest rates and taxation rates, pricing first home buyers out of the market.
Ms Smith said these people were then renting properties which might once have gone to people on a low income.
She urged government to invest further in social housing.
Anglicare Victoria can be reached on 1800 809 722.
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