Housing affordability reaches crisis point

Cobaw Community Health housing support worker Annabelle O'Regan, Private Rental Assistance Program client Kate England, local MP Mary-Anne Thomas and Haven Home Safe general manager housing Rachel Gellatly.

Cobaw Community Health housing support worker Annabelle O'Regan, Private Rental Assistance Program client Kate England, local MP Mary-Anne Thomas and Haven Home Safe general manager housing Rachel Gellatly.

Macedon Ranges is experiencing a surge in housing support needs as housing affordability reaches crisis point.

From January to June Cobaw Community Health has seen a 26 per cent increase in people seeking housing support, says CEO Margaret McDonald.

"This increase in six months is just staggering," Ms McDonald said.

"The housing situation has been more concerning over the past two years."

Ms McDonald said numerous contributing factors had made it more difficult for people to access affordable housing including a rise in housing costs, and changes in employment opportunities.

"House prices have risen significantly in the shire. People are also paying a higher proportion for housing - we know that some people pay well over 30-40 per cent of their income on housing," she said.

"Income is not as reliable for some - we hear that people may have one or two part-time jobs and when one doesn't work out it makes it almost impossible to meet housing payments.

"There's a real issues around affordable rentals and there is a real lack of options for individuals. Most options are three to four bedroom homes and accommodation is more high-end."

A 2016 Real Estate Institute of Victoria report states the largest capital growth in the state over a five-year period (ending September 2015) for regional towns was seen in Kyneton.

The town's median house price increased 39 per cent in five years to $466,000, up from $335,500 in September 2010.

The closure of caravan parks that offer affordable accommodation has also compounded the situation.

Ms McDonald said there were many differing circumstances around the need for support including people escaping family violence.

"We have lots of individuals or single parents with one child coming to seek support from us," she said.

"We know we've got a number of people sleeping rough - a lot of people are couch surfing.

"There are not a lot of transitional or public housing options in the Macedon Ranges so we face an incredible pressure."

The health service provider is one of 17 agencies across the state funded to deliver the state government's Private Rental Assistance Program to help more people experiencing family violence and homelessness access the private rental market.

Last week Macedon MP Mary-Anne Thomas joined the team at Cobaw to announce a new $1.2 million funding burst to the PRAP program.

"We know there is more to be done - that's why we are funding innovative state-wide solutions to deal with the housing crisis we are facing," Ms Thomas said.

Ms Thomas said support agencies like Cobaw could now continue to support and refer at-risk households and the homeless who would benefit from PRAP to Haven Home Safe; the agency delivering PRAP in both the Loddon and Mallee areas.

Earlier this month the Labor Government announced that Haven Home Safe was one of eight organisations to receive funding under the government's Accommodation for the Homeless Phase 2 initiative.

PRICED OUT OF RENTAL

Single mum of four Kate England was recently priced out of her Macedon rental and struggled to find affordable housing.

Now renting in Gisborne, the PRAP program helped her afford the shift through covering the cost of furniture removalists and a portion of advance rent.

"It made managing my finances a lot easier. I was absolutely shocked to at how rent has risen in the area. There really is limited affordable housing," Ms England said.

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