Tailah Dippel sits on her porch, anxiously watching the rain clouds roll in.
Rain is the last thing her family needs as they prepare to leave the warmth and comfort of their home.
Their rental in Bundaberg is being sold and for six months Tailah and her partner Daniel have been looking for a new home for their family of five.
Daniel earns a decent salary as a traffic controller, and the pair figured they’d have no trouble finding a three-bedroom house in their price range of $300 to $450 a week.
But over time, they became more and more panicked.
“Every rental that’s in our price range, we’ve been there,” Tailah says.
“They always say when you have a job it’s security and you’re better off financially, but right now it doesn’t make much of a difference.”
They approached social housing providers but were ineligible due to Daniel’s income. Even the caravan parks were full.
The 25-year-old says the only option left for her family is to move into a tent.
Over the past few weeks, they’ve been through the painstaking process of downsizing – selling off most of their possessions to buy solar panels, a portable shower and toilet and other camping essentials.
“The four-year-old got a little roughed up. When the guys came to get all the furniture, he said, ‘No, that’s my coffee table!'”
The weather has been gray and miserable, and Tailah has stocked up on warm clothes for her seven-month-old son and stepsons, aged four and 19.
“As long as we can get the right setup in place to keep them warm and entertained long enough, I think they’ll be fine,” she says.
“I try to stay positive.”
But as the rain begins to fall on moving day, the young mum decides to try the local caravan parks one last time, rather than camping by the floodplain river as planned.
“How many nights?” Ask a trailer park owner on the phone.
“As long as you offer,” she replies.
The telephone line is cut.
Anecdotally, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of people in Bundaberg looking for emergency accommodation due to the worsening rental crisis in the area of Australia – and it seems this caravan park has had its share of desperate phone calls.
Later in the morning, the family has a bit of luck: one of the parks can offer them a campsite for two weeks, at a cost of $244 per week.
It doesn’t take long for them to cram the kids into the car and pitch their tent, but the grass is saturated and puddles of water immediately begin to form in the corners of their makeshift home.
Tailah drapes a poncho around the four-year-old, who becomes distressed.
Faced with such an uncertain future, his optimism is fading.
And there’s another big complication on the horizon: she’s 18 weeks pregnant.
“I don’t really know how I’m going to do it.”
The weather forecast remains gloomy, but she puts on a bright expression as she gathers the children for lunch.
“I just try to be happy for them,” she says.
“And just laugh, because if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry.”
Families and retirees now among the homeless
The housing situation in Bundaberg has reached crisis point, according to longtime local Jasmine Tasker.
She’s the director of operations at Angels Community Group, a nonprofit that just opened a support center for the homeless in the city.
At any one time, a dozen people use the laundry or the shower or get a free meal.
“Growing up, there was maybe a homeless person or two in town, and we knew their names,” Ms Tasker says.
“Today is very different. We have young families, we have pensioners, we have people who have jobs – their children go to school – and they are homeless because of this rental crisis. .”
Bundaberg Regional Council CEO Steve Johnston told 7.30am the council had supported local forums on the issue, but local government was “a small cog in a big wheel”.
“We stand ready to play an active role in addressing these issues, but any approach will only have meaningful impact if industry, community and all levels of government tackle them together,” said Mr. Johnston.
Rents hit record highs
Kate Colvin works with homeless people in Victoria and is a spokesperson for Everybody’s Home, a national campaign to find solutions to the housing crisis.
She says similar stories are playing out across the country, especially in coastal and regional areas that have proven popular with affluent city dwellers seeking a change of tree or sea during the pandemic.
Figures from SQM Research show that the national rental vacancy rate is 1.1%.
“We think anything below 3% is a tight rental market, so what’s happening is somebody showing up to rent a property and they’re competing with 30, 40 other households for this property,” says Colvin.
In most states and territories, rental prices are hitting record highs every quarter.
Nationally, rents have jumped nearly 9% on average in 12 months, according to the latest data from Domain.
In Bundaberg, the average rent has risen from $295 to $400 per week over the past year, an increase of 14.3%.
Rents in the NSW coastal paradise of Bellingen jumped 42.1% – from $380 to $540 – over the same period.
Ms Colvin says the price rises are due to a lack of affordable private rentals and a failure to build enough social housing to keep pace with population growth.
“It’s not profitable for investors to create new rentals that will be rented affordably to someone on a low income,” she says.
“So we have a market failure in the private sector, and at the same time we have less public investment in social and affordable housing.”
A report released today by the UNSW City Futures Research Center found public housing was ‘rationed’ and waiting lists had soared to more than a decade due to overwhelming demand and supply falling.
More than 433,000 social housing units needed: AHURI report
When new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese gave his victory speech on election night, he gave a moving nod to his roots in social housing, saying: “I want every parent to be able to tell their child , no matter where you live or where you’re from, in Australia the doors of opportunity are open to all of us.”
His Labor government has pledged $10 billion to build 20,000 social housing units and 10,000 affordable homes over the next five years.
But there are 164,000 households on national social housing waiting lists, and a report by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) puts the social housing shortfall at 433,000 properties – after housing Social security largely slipped from the federal government’s agenda from 1996. .
“We are very pleased to see the federal government once again address the growth of social housing,” said Ms. Colvin.
“There is a huge opportunity for this federal government to partner with the states and together help grow more social housing, because families across the country truly rely on a property they can call home. “
Watch this story at 7:30 p.m. tonight on ABC TV and ABC iview.