Being single, over 60 and on benefits has often made it challenging for Kerry North to secure a suitable rental property.
"As a single female, you've got to be looking at security," the 69-year-old said.
"Then you've got to be looking at, 'can I afford $650 a fortnight when you only get $1000? Are there people around? Are you isolated?' "
Anglicare Sydney's 2021 Rental Affordability Snapshot paints a bleak picture for low income households in the private rental market.
The snapshot (taken between March 27-28) surveyed almost 25,000 rental listings across Greater Sydney and the Illawarra.
It found in the Illawarra region, there were only three affordable and appropriate (costing 30 per cent or less of income) properties for people living on government benefits, and 147 properties for couples on the minimum wage on that weekend.
It revealed that there were no appropriate rentals for single people on the Disability Support Pension.
Also, no suitable rentals were found for single parents with one child on the Parenting Payment or Jobseeker, or a single person household on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance.
Ms North has been single and renting since 2003, when her marriage broke down, as that was all she could afford.
Now on a Disability Support Pension, Ms North had been renting at an Illawarra lifestyle village for several years, before having to leave and take up a private rental at Unanderra in late 2020.
She said this was "debilitating", as she felt isolated and not secure there.
"I couldn't afford it, but I had to live somewhere," she said.
"I was paying $650, nearly $700, and there's $300 to live on a fortnight.
"How can you do that? How can anybody do that?
"It's below poverty, definitely.
"To go out and have a meal, you just don't do that. You don't go out and buy a dress... You just don't do it.
"You just stay at home."
With assistance from Supported Accommodation & Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra, she moved into her current property at Corrimal in January.
The studio apartment is part of affordable housing subsidised by Anglicare.
"It's been one of the best things I've done, move in here," she said.
"I'm not isolated, and very safe and secure."
Ms North said without Anglicare's assistance, she would be "still at Unanderra, struggling... Still looking, but I really did struggle there".
Ms North said there needed to be more affordable housing made available.
"But you've got to make it in a way that it's nice for people to move into," she said.
"For example, this is lovely - brand new, security, everything's here, community. This is my forever home."
Bill Farrand from Anglicare Sydney said rental affordability across Greater Sydney and the Illawarra required an urgent and long-term commitment from government, community, and business sectors.
He said solutions included raising the rate of JobSeeker; increasing Commonwealth Rent Assistance; and boosting the supply of social and affordable housing.
The Rental Affordability Snapshot this year coincided with the end of the Coronavirus Supplement for income support payments, the end of the JobKeeper program and, in NSW, the end of the temporary rental eviction moratorium and the start of the six-month transitional period.
"The COVID-19 pandemic and recession has affected private renters across Australia, with a quarter losing income during the pandemic," Mr Farrand said.
"It's estimated 75,000 Australians had rent debts in late 2020."
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