TENANCY WA has called on the McGowan government to extend a moratorium on evictions during the Covid pandemic or face a “flood of homelessness”.
Executive manager Carmen Acosta said many renters were already walking a financial tightrope and when WA’s six-month eviction ban ends on October 1 she fears landlords will run out of patience.
Ms Acosta wants the government to urgently build more public housing to help cope with the expected wave of demand.
Hard hit “Renters have been some of the hardest hit by Covid-related loss of income,” Ms Acosta told the Herald.
“Ninety per cent of all renters that call us for advice are saying that they have somehow been impacted by Covid.
“Renters who haven’t been able to pay their full rent, have entered into some sort of negotiation over the last number of months, but now they are going to owe all of that money.”
Before the moratorium kicked in, there had already been 470 evictions across WA during the 2019/20 financial year.
Ms Acosta fears the new wave of evictees will face an even tougher time because Perth’s tight rental market has driven prices up.
“We are currently down to about 4,000 properties for lease,” North Metro Greens MLC Alison Xamon said in Parliament last month.
“That means people will be further squeezed out of the private rental market, particularly if they are vulnerable.”
The latest data on homelessness reveals there are 9,100 homeless people across WA, 1,000 of which are living on the streets in Perth, with First Nations people disproportionately represented at 42 per cent.
“Those overall numbers are expected to grow once the federal government’s Covid-19 income support payments and the state government’s moratorium on evictions end,” Ms Xamon said.
UWA academic and Royal Perth Hospital Homeless Team leader Lisa Wood said the state’s hospitals and health systems were already under strain.
“There is a genuine fear amongst homeless services about when that eviction moratorium ends,” Prof Wood said.
She is particularly worried about the vulnerability of women and children.
“There’s a couple of women who are pregnant on the streets of Perth at the moment,” she says.
Ms Acosta says no children should be left homeless, describing the experience “is akin to being in a war-torn country”.
by KELLY WARDEN