High home prices force families together

THE Hunter’s housing affordability crisis has triggered a demographic shift with thousands of low- and middle-income earners forced to move in with extended family.

Soaring rents and high property prices have forced many families to share houses and in some cases even rooms.

More than 43,000 Hunter households, or one in five, are in housing stress, spending more than 30per cent of their pre-tax income to keep a roof over their head.

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Real Estate Institute Newcastle Hunter divisional chairman Wayne Stewart said homes across the region were becoming more crowded.

Mr Stewart said demand for granny-flat accommodation had risen “enormously”, sparked by the affordability crisis.

He said while some young people or families used it as a temporary measure to save, others were looking at it as a long-term option.

‘‘We are seeing more and more parents and children pool their funds, in what is a very European way of doing things,’’ Mr Stewart said.

‘‘Extended families are talking about overall needs, rather than individual needs, it’s a real cultural change for this region.’’

Hunter Valley Research Foundation director Simon Deeming said affordability pressures in both the Hunter’s owner-occupier and rental markets had sparked the increasing trend.

Mr Deeming said while some people were forced to move in with extended family, others simply could not afford to leave home, or shared with larger amounts of people to split costs.

Housing Industry Association chief economist Harley Dale said it was a situation that was being forced on people, rather than a voluntary change in housing preference.

It was compounded by the Hunter’s rental market crisis, “onerous” taxes, including stamp duty, and prohibitive costs and delays restricting new land releases.

According to the Real Estate Institute of NSW, Newcastle’s rental vacancy rate in December was the worst for a city in NSW at 1.1per cent. Australians for Affordable Housing campaign manager Sarah Toohey said that, faced with “rent increase after rent increase”, many people simply could not keep up.

Ms Toohey said people and families either moved back home with parents or turned to social or public housing that already had extensive waiting lists in the Hunter.

“The most extreme and worst problem is when people are forced to double up and share rooms,” she said.

“We are seeing more and more private dwellings converted into rooming houses.”

Robinson Property general manager Matthew Waddell described the rental market as “very, very tight”.

He said as one tenant moved out, the next day another moved in.

In such a tight market he said it was common for people to try to outbid each other in an effort to secure a property.

Property experts from across the region agreed the barrier to home entry was also being reflected in the blow-out in long-term renters.

Couple valued family support

WITH dual incomes and no children, Carley and Brent Gilbert thought they were well placed to save for a house deposit.

But in the space of three years the rent the newlyweds were paying in Cooks Hill jumped 25 per cent. Struggling to get ahead, they moved in with Ms Gilbert’s mum and her partner in East Maitland.

‘‘We really wanted to move forward and get our own place, but it just wasn’t happening fast enough, we were saving but not enough,’’ Ms Gilbert said.

‘‘In that time we poured a lot of money into our savings and it really gave us an opportunity to find the place we wanted and put a little aside for some renovations.’’

The couple moved into their first home, in Mayfield, this month and said it would not have happened so quickly without family support.

‘‘I am actually really close with my mum and her house is big enough so we all had our own space ... ’’ Ms Gilbert said.

‘‘We got to the point where we couldn’t wait any longer, we just really wanted our own home and there was no other way to get to that point.’’

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