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Evictions Surge In Australian State After Moratorium Lifts

Western Australia’s government has defended its handling of an affordable housing crisis that has service providers under pressure.

PERTH, Australia — West Australian service providers are being overwhelmed by people seeking help with housing evictions, financial problems, and domestic violence.

A report by the Housing Emergency Response Group finds the number of people sleeping rough and waiting for social housing has also spiked since a year-long moratorium on rental evictions expired at the end of March.

At least 1256 termination notices have been issued to private tenants since then, equivalent to more than 100 per week.

Rental vacancy rates have meanwhile sunk to record lows in recent months.

“Unfortunately, this report shows many individuals and families are in enormous stress,” Westen Australian Council of Social Services policy director Chris Twomey said.

The McGowan government has touted a $1 billion investment in housing initiatives, including a AU$30 million residential rent relief grant scheme. (Richard Wainwright/AAP Image)

“Ensuring adequate ongoing emergency relief funding along with increased investment in social and affordable housing is critical.”

Among the trends identified in the report are a surge in the number of people seeking assistance with debt and financial problems.

Community Legal group Circle Green said requests for assistance in court with tenancy issues had more than tripled between October and June. Since the moratorium was lifted, calls to Circle Green have increased by 500 percent to 200 a day.

The Financial Counsellors Network meanwhile reported a 122 percent increase in clients who had been impacted by family and domestic violence from April to May.

More than 560 applicants have joined the social housing waitlist since the moratorium ended, taking the total number to almost 17,000.

Western Australia is on track to post a record AU$4.3 billion ($3.2 billion) budget surplus, fueled by a surge in the iron ore price, when the budget is handed down in Sept. 2021.

The Mark McGowan government has touted an AU$1 billion ($745.9 million) investment in housing initiatives, including an AU$30 million ($22.3 million) residential rent relief grant scheme.

Western Australia is on track to post a record $4.3 billion budget surplus, fuelled by a surge in the iron ore price when the budget is handed down in September. (Joel Carrett/AAP Image)

State Housing Minister John Carey said there had been a significant increase in demand for housing supply, partly driven by an influx of returned residents, but predicted Western Australia’s hot housing market would eventually bolster rental stocks.

He said there had been about 26,000 building approvals granted over the past 12 months, 10,000 of which he expected to enter the rental market.

“We know that the housing market is under pressure – it’s a question of supply,” he said on July 8.

“That issue’s being addressed but in the meantime, we are rolling out a significant range of measures including a grant scheme for tenants.”

He added that heavy demand for builders had prevented the government from building more public housing.

“We want to build public housing but just like private home builders, mums and dads, we’re all facing a similar constraint,” he said.

The Western Australian housing crisis has peaked even as the state remains the cheapest in terms of house rent. The Covid-19 lockdowns have impacted women and children most, especially those trying to escape abuse. Yet, the lack of affordable housing remains a major social issue.

(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Krishna Kakani)