Gold Coast mum overthrown after asking for 100 rentals
Australia’s ‘heartbreaking’ rental crisis, which is pushing some into homelessness, means people are turning to ‘desperate’ measures to survive.
When Tracey Cunningham’s home which she had rented for five years was sold, she was suddenly thrown into the brutal Gold Coast rental market.
She saw the mum-of-three, whose children are aged 12, 10 and 7, apply for a hundred rentals and she was rejected for all of them, she said.
“It was even discouraging to go and see them because you knew you had no chance anyway because being a single mother on Centrelink compared to other couples who were there and might have had part-time jobs full,” she told news.com.au.
“It was very stressful.”
The 37-year-old said the family were left homeless for a few weeks and were forced to stay in a caravan, while the children had to miss school.
But she was thrown on a lifeline when the people who bought her rental engineered a switch so she could move into their two-bedroom unit.
Yet that means the single mom’s rent has skyrocketed for a much smaller place and she’s now forced to share a bed with her daughter.
“When we moved here, I was paying $300 for a three-bedroom townhouse and I’m not paying $450 a week for a two-bedroom unit,” she said.
“It’s huge and I can’t really afford it, but it’s what we have to do.
“My daughter doesn’t like it too much and doesn’t have her own space and she’s in my bed and the bed takes up the whole room. It’s annoying and hard for her to deal with.
Her current rental was sold eight weeks after they moved in, so even now she is worried about the future.
Ms Cunningham is in one of Australia’s worst rental markets.
Vacancy rates on the Gold Coast have remained below 1% since around mid-2020, while Proptrack’s Quarterly Rentals Report showed weekly rents increased by 18.4% between March 2021 and this year, one of the largest increases across the country.
At one point Ms Cunningham was so ‘desperate’ as not only were the family homeless, but her car also broke down and she was quoted $3,000 to fix, that she turned to funding participatory.
Having never asked for help, she said the campaign was for a close friend because she didn’t want people to know she was the one in real trouble. He raised $1000.
“In fact, a friend suggested I do it. I wouldn’t have really pushed to do it myself – to ask for help – if she hadn’t suggested it, but she could see how I was struggling and I had nothing to lose,” she said.
“It didn’t do as much as I needed, but made me understand what I needed it for. I found other ways, so I sold things like clothes and household accessories to earn money anyway.
Like Ms Cunningham, desperate Australians must turn to crowdfunding to seek help as they fall behind on their rent payments or to help fund temporary accommodation, even appealing to money to buy caravans to avoid homelessness.
GoFundMe data shows a huge increase in the number of Aussies using the platform to ask for help.
Between May 2020 and May 2021, 37 local fundraising campaigns were held on GoFundMe to meet basic housing and shelter needs, but the following year there were 158, an increase considerable 327%.
Minimum wage earners in Australia can only afford 1.6% of available rentals, while those on benefits have been shut out of the market altogether, a shocking report revealed last month.
Kate Liston-Mills has seen the impact of the rental crisis in her town of Pambula, located in the Bega Valley Shire in the far south of New South Wales.
The mother-of-two has seen bushfires rip through the town leaving ‘climate refugees’ homeless, but also does social media for Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast and has seen the heartbreaking messages coming.
“We were continually calling for caravan donations so those affected by the fires could stay in the community but have some privacy and independence and the money to rebuild hasn’t arrived two years later, it’s awful,” she said.
“So we already had all that but we also had the housing crisis. There are hardly any rentals available in the whole area so if you don’t own a home here you can’t stay here so we’re looking at a lot of nice people having to leave and that’s absolutely c**p .”
Feeling “powerless” about the issue affecting their community, along with husband Sam, the couple launched a crowdfunding campaign in January to raise money to buy permanent homes for people.
“It was quite sad to see so many members of the community in such shitty circumstances. There are young people who arrive with little means to get out of the situation,” she said.
“One person messaged and they were working three jobs and only paying rent and they had been told the place they were renting was up for sale.
“People are poorer than they’ve ever been despite low unemployment because the cost of living is so much higher.”
The crowdfunding also involved the 36-year-old spending an hour a day walking local hiking trails and picking up trash with daily updates on her progress, giving the campaign momentum.
Their original goal was $7,000, but they raised the incredible sum of $17,780 that enabled Social Justice Advocates, who often help women fleeing domestic violence, to buy two granny flats due to arrive in town next week.
But Ms Liston-Mills said crowdfunding should not be a long-term solution for those in need.
“The gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening rapidly. GoFundMe shouldn’t be people’s only option, but I think it often is right now,” she said.
“Thank goodness it exists not only for these structural injustices, but also for the growing numbness of natural disasters that we see. For our needs, it has been an absolute gift to the whole community. It has allowed us to build a community and give back.
Nicola Britton, director of GoFundMe Australia, said those affected by the “housing crisis” sweeping Australia are raising their hands for help on the platform.
“When we notice a trend on GoFundMe, it often reflects a much deeper societal issue. The fact that so many Australians are turning to crowdfunding to fill funding gaps when moving to more affordable areas or buying alternative accommodation, indicates that the problem is deep,” she said.
“The stories we read are heartbreaking. While we are happy to be able to provide a platform to help and see the power of the community shine through, those affected cannot continue to rely on generous donors to keep a roof over their heads.