Evictions fuelled by returning landlords

LANDLORDS returning to WA from interstate are adding further pressure to Perth’s housing crisis, with competition driving rental prices up, and low-income renters out.

After WA’s eviction moratorium ended on March 31, the courts received 460 eviction applications in April – the highest since June 2019 –coinciding with increasing house prices.

Real Estate Institute of WA president Damian Collins said Perth’s current property growth had almost doubled from the previous cycle.

He said Perth’s last growth cycle lasted 30 months between 2011 to 2014 and resulted in a 15 per cent price growth.

“We are just 12 months into this current growth cycle and prices in Perth are already up almost 11 per cent, with the bulk of that growth occurring in the first six months of this year.”

“For comparison, the total price growth recorded during the first 12 months of the previous upcycle was 6 per cent,” Mr Collins said.

Back in May as the trend gained momentum, Circle Green Community Legal tenancies solicitor Alice Pennycott said low-income tenants were suffering.

“A lot more landlords are terminating rentals without any reason,” she said.

“Normally it would be a lot of bonds disputes or rent arrears and things like that.”

Ms Pennycott said she thought landlords were looking to capitalise on the competitive market, by raising their prices and evicting current tenants, to get higher paying tenants in.

She said the spike in evictions could also have to do with landlords returning to WA from interstate.

“It’s certainly impacting people who are in the lower income bracket because they’re the ones being priced out of the higher rent at the moment,” she said.

Ms Pennycott said Circle Green refers people with nowhere to go to homeless services or urges them to apply for social housing, but that these systems were “broken” due to a lack of investment. 

Pitching a tent

Armadale mother of five Tania Hansen is about to become homeless with her children, with the owner of her rental returning from Tasmania. 

“I’ve been talking about pitching a tent on the Armadale footy oval,” she said.

“We have no other choice.”

Ms Hansen has exhausted her options trying to secure a place to live but has had no luck in either the private or public sector.

Recent data from the Department of Communities revealed that of the 1,026 priority listed applications who were found housing in the past year, the average wait time was less than a year.

“I’ve been on the priority Homeswest list for more than two years and they still haven’t found me anything,” Ms Hansen said.

“I’ve told them in writing I’ll take a three-bedroom place and we’ll all squeeze in but still nothing is available, they say.”

Ms Hansen is a survivor of severe domestic violence, and the perpetrator is due to be released from prison later this year.

“I’m scared of what will happen if we are still homeless and on the streets, then,” she said.

Advocates at Day Dawn Advocacy Centre have expressed concerns about Ms Hansen and her children’s safety in repeated letters to housing minister John Carey, to no avail. 

Latest figures show a 50 per cent drop in the provision of public housing under the McGowan government, and decrease in public housing stock between 2017 and 2020. 

Homeless advocate Jesse Noakes said: “[Former premier Colin] Barnett built more than 1000 public houses every year to successfully halve the waitlist – unfortunately, this trend

has sharply reversed under McGowan.”

These statistics follow the recent deaths of 56 homeless people in Perth in 2020, with more deaths occurring at a rate of more than one a week this winter.

Betsy Buchanan from Day Dawn said: “The WA housing crisis is a Western Australian emergency, and it hits First Nations families first and hardest.”

“I dread morning phone calls at the moment – too many are from distraught family members bearing the worst news about another child dead on the street or in a park.”

by KELLY WARDEN

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