PRIVATE rental affordability for low-income earners in Warrnambool remains the worst in south-west Victoria, despite an easing of prices and increase in demand for vacant properties.
Single tenants are in the worst predicament with official figures showing only 23 per cent of one-bedroom dwellings were affordable at a median price of $180 a week.
Looming restrictions on welfare payments are predicted to make it even harder for the unemployed to afford private rental.
Across all bedroom configurations, 40.5 per cent of new listings in the city were classed as affordable based on a housing cost against gross income, according to the Department of Human Services March quarter report.
The city’s median weekly rent stood at $280 and four-bedroom rent was $390. Across regional Victoria the March quarter median rent remained steady at $270 and the statewide median increased by $10 to $350.
In the year 2000 a single bedroom unit cost about $90 a week, a three-bedroom rental in Warrnambool $130 and a four-bedroom was $50 extra while affordability was as high as 89 per cent.
At the other end of the scale this year Corangamite Shire had the region’s best affordability figure of 90.6 per cent while in Glenelg Shire it was 84.3 per cent, Southern Grampians 83.8 per cent, Colac Otway 73.4 per cent and Moyne Shire 55.4 per cent.
A report released yesterday by the Tenants Union of Victoria shows tenants occupy about a quarter of all households across the state.
More than 42 per cent of private tenants were couples with children or single parent families, 23 per cent were couples only and less than a third were group households or people living alone.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria delegate Bruce Ludeman of Warrnambool said tough economic conditions and unemployment had compounded the market for renters and landlords.
“Historically there is usually about two per cent of rental properties vacant — now it’s more like three to four per cent in Warrnambool,” he said. “A basic two-bedroom unit would be $200-plus, you wouldn’t get a three-bedroom house for under $250 a week, a four-bedroom would be $300-$400 and townhouses about $350. You could probably get a rough unit for $160-180.”
Warrnambool’s affordability plunged to as low as 28.6 per cent in 2011 amidst surging demand by energy project construction companies willing to pay high rentals.
When that sector put the brakes on further development, demand for rental housing suddenly waned, but prices were slower to subside.
Mr Ludeman said recent improvement in returns for dairy farmers gave renewed hope of a pick-up in the local economy, but there was still an underlying unemployment rate not reflected in official figures.