HAVING been mere days away from being homeless, mother of five Kathleen Irwin bluntly describes the state of the region’s rental market.
“It is ridiculous,” the 32-year-old said of having lodged more than 50 unsuccessful rental applications.
“I don’t believe we have enough rental market for the demand that we have in Wollongong. Not affordable ones, anyway.”
Mrs Irwin’s five children range from newborn to seven years old. Her husband works part-time.
Last Wednesday they secured a house to rent in Oak Flats for $450 per week.
“We literally had three days before we had to be out of our previous property,” she said. “As of Saturday we would have stayed at my parents’ over the weekend, then turned up at Housing NSW on Monday morning, and seen where they were going to put us basically, as we had nowhere to go.”
The family had previously been renting a Lake Heights house. They were recently issued a no-grounds termination notice, as their landlord wished to do renovations.
A tenant automatically moves to a periodic agreement when a fixed term agreement ends, if the tenant remains and no new agreement is signed. During a periodic agreement, a landlord can issue a no-grounds notice at any time, without having to state a reason.
Mrs Irwin said they had a three-month period before they had to vacate the home.
“We started looking for a new property straight away.
“Over the course of that three months we applied for 54 properties.
“We ended up having to enlist help from St Vincent de Paul’s Homeless Co-ordination and the Homeless Hub to even get into this place.”
The family had also applied for priority housing.
“We would always ask for feedback from the agents, just because that helps with the next one,” Mrs Irwin said.
“Some owners just don’t want five kids in their house, and I get that. But it wasn’t all that long that it was completely normal to have five kids. It’s really hard to be judged on that, based on the fact that I still need to put a roof over my kids’ heads, just the same that someone with two kids does.”
Illawarra and South Coast Tenants Services team leader Warren Wheeler said landlords or real estate agents “aren’t legally allowed to discriminate against applicants” for such reasons.
“However, we often see claims of discrimination, particularly against single mothers… We also find that landlords are less likely to approve tenants if they have pets, particularly dogs.
“So that can be difficult for people relocating. Often when they’re forced to relocate through no fault of their own, for example a no-grounds notice, it means there’s a part of the market they’re cut out from.”