Bulli renter Tahlia Roza has begun packing her belongings into boxes but she has no idea where they'll end up.
The lease has expired on the little one-bedroom, $265-a-week unit in Bulli she's called home for the past two years and the owner has decided not to renew it.
Amid a critical shortage of rental properties in the Illawarra, she's been given 30 days to vacate the premises.
"It kind of feels pointless, I'm packing up my house and I'm packing up my life but I don't have a plan of where to go from here, so it's really stressful," the 34-year-old divorcee said.
"I woke up this morning and as soon as I opened my eyes I was just crying because I thought this isn't a dream, this is actually happening.
"I was given no warning and they've given me no reason, I just got an email that said your lease is up in 30 days."
While Ms Roza, a digital content creator, will be sad to leave Bulli - she knows the lifeguards by name and feels a part of the community - she's had to widen her rental search to cover the entire region as affordable options run dry in her area.
In January, research commissioned by Well Home Loans identified Thirroul and Bulli as among 20 suburbs in NSW that had a maximum of three vacant rental properties.
"I've gone on just about every website looking for a place," she said.
"It's a crappy position to be in at the moment because with everyone in the same boat, I could inspect 12 properties but the chances of me applying and being successful for any of them are slim.
"I've been to two inspections already and there were so many people at both that I feel like there's just not enough properties for everyone.
"It's crazy, especially with the prices of things.
"I saw one online today and it was literally 400-and-something dollars for a one-bedroom unit.
"I couldn't believe it, I thought, like, am I living in Sydney now?
"I've been so lucky to have my place for the past two years because there is nothing in that price range available at the moment. The prices have just gone through the roof."
The average rental price in the Wollongong LGA has climbed by 8.8 per cent in the 12 months to February, according to CoreLogic data.
A mass exodus of Sydneysiders moving to regional areas during the pandemic has increased competition and driven up the prices of rental properties in the Illawarra.
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