Illawarra residents were burned by rapid annual rent increases in 2022, forcing many to turn to already-overwhelmed crisis services for support.
The Wollongong Homeless Hub assisted twice as many people in 2022 than the previous year, and the cost of living is likely to sting locals for months to come.
Some suburbs in Wollongong recorded jumps in weekly rents of up to a quarter over 2022, new statistics reveal.
In East Corrimal, the average weekly asking rent for a house jumped by 24 per cent in 2022, according to Domain's Quarterly Rent Report, while a unit in Corrimal is costing renters an extra 22 per cent.
In Kanahooka, the median weekly rent for a house has climbed to $600, a 20 per cent hike on December 2021.
Renters in Figtree and Towradgi also felt the sting, facing an annual rent hike of more than 18 per cent.
Sky-rocketing housing demand has been fuelled by the return of international and domestic travel, overseas migration, and foreign students, the report revealed.
Rising rental costs have pushed housing out of reach for many, forcing them to turn to local support services already overwhelmed by demand.
The Wollongong Homeless Hub supported double the number of people they are funded for across 2022, Homeless Hub CEO Mandy Booker said.
People on Jobseeker payments are being priced out of boarding house accommodation, she said, with some residences charging $280 per week for a room with a shared kitchen and bathroom.
"We have seen a continued increase in demand for services across all our program areas, from assertive outreach to rough sleepers, tenancies at risk and crisis/transitional housing," Ms Booker said.
A shortage in crisis and transitional housing supply has led many into homelessness "with no path out", she said, taking a steep toll on their physical and mental health.
"Wait-lists vary depending on the accommodation, with those waiting for social housing expected to wait for up to 10 years in the Illawarra..." she said.
As rental hikes continue to bite, Ms Booker said immediate action should be taken to fund front line services to not only support people in need, but to break the cycle of homelessness.
More affordable social housing is also needed to help ease the pressures on low income households, she said.
"Current housing stock available is sub standard at best and needs to be completely reviewed on what is viewed as safe and habitable," she said.
NSW Tenants' Union Chief Executive Officer Leo Patterson Ross said record-high rents set by landlords taking advantage of low supply has put renters in "an awful situation".
Mr Patterson Ross said people facing rent hikes should ensure they are aware of rent increase rules and consider whether it's something to address with the landlord or agent.
The Illawarra and South Coast Tenants Advice can provide free legal advice to renters, he said.
We've made it a whole lot easier for you to have your say. Our new comment platform requires only one log-in to access articles and to join the discussion on the Illawarra Mercury website. Find out how to register so you can enjoy civil, friendly and engaging discussions. Sign up for a subscription here.