More than one third of all residents in the seat of Wannon are experiencing financial stress, new data reveals, with the rising cost of food and fuel tipped to cause more pain.
Figures from housing campaign Everybody's Home revealed 42.9 per cent of renters and 34.3 per cent of mortgagees in the region were under stress.
Campaign spokesperson Kate Colvin said that meant more than four in 10 renters had less than five per cent of their income flexible after ordinary expenses.
"That's a really high amount of renters experiencing rental stress," Ms Colvin said.
"This is all residents, it's not just low income. That is relative to other places and indicates a high degree of stress particularly compared to other regional areas."
She said it left those people vulnerable in the case emergency expenses arose.
"If less than five per cent of your income is flexible, catastrophic expenses like a sudden increase in rent or if your car breaks down would mean you don't have leeway and you're vulnerable if your ordinary expenses increase.
"Your five per cent leeway quickly becomes zero or negative depending on the magnitude of the increase, so it's worrying to have more than four in 10 renters in stress."
IN OTHER NEWS
She said rent hikes across the south-west contributed significantly to the figures.
"It's because rents have increased significantly in the past year in south-west Victoria," she said.
"They're up 16.5 per cent which is a really huge increase when ordinarily they might increase five per cent. You've got more low income households and presumably people in Melbourne on higher income who can work from home moving into the area and pushing up the cost of rentals.
"Particularly seeing regional households have quite high fuel bills, I expect that will make life more challenging."
Salvation Army homelessness officer for Wimmera and the south-west Lindsay Stow said the increased cost of living would make everyday life harder for those already struggling.
"Affordability and availability of rental housing across our region is decreasing and people are finding it increasingly difficult to access appropriate housing," Mr Stow said.
"We have seen a recent rise in the number of single parent families who can't secure housing, a number of which, as a result, are sleeping in cars.
"The rising cost of essentials such as food and fuel will no doubt put further pressure on those struggling to maintain rental accommodation."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Now just one tap with our new app: Digital subscribers now have the convenience of faster news, right at your fingertips with The Standard:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.