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NEWS DESK

Renters face tight vacancy rates, higher rents Stephen Taylor steve@baysidenews.com.au

Feeling the brunt in house hunt

STRONG demand for long term rental properties on the Mornington Peninsula has created a tight vacancy rate. Some real estate agents have no places available and others just a few. Vacancies are usually snapped as soon as they are advertised. The demand has allowed landlords to push up rents by 10 per cent in some areas, making it hard for tenants to afford the property they want. Harcourts rental department manager Shae Trewin said the throng of prospective tenants meant vacant properties go straight onto a data-base. Those who have already been vetted are notified immediately – without the property being advertised. Rents had gone up 3-4 per cent annually, she said, because “so many people want to live here”. The downside, though, is that “it’s hard for some people to find a home”. Two-bedroom units are commanding $380-$420 a week and one-bedders in less desirable locations $300$340 a week. Jacobs and Lowe’s Phillip Omann said rents for two-bedroom townhouses had gone up at least 10 per cent over the past 12 months. He said “not a lot” of rentals were available, citing a “tight vacancy rate of 1.5 per cent”. “People tend to stay where they are down here and we have families moving from the eastern suburbs and others retiring here,” he said. Joanne Avenell, of eview Rosebud, said rental demand was particularly

ONE man feeling the brunt of rising property prices and their effect on rental affordability is aged pensioner Larry (surname withheld) who fears eviction from his fourth rental unit when the new owners decide to sell. Such is the dearth of affordable rentals anywhere on the Mornington Peninsula, up through Frankston and as far north as Moorabbin, that he fears he may be left homeless. “I’m beginning to feel the pressure of rising rents,” he said. Almost 70, and a victim of the 1990s recession when his peninsulabased blinds business failed, Larry has been renting ever since. “Rents are so much higher these days and there are very few affordable places around,” he said. “None are available through the Department of Housing in Frankston.”

Even with a flatmate sharing the expenses and receiving rental assistance and pensioner concessions at his Hastings unit he is still finding it hard to make ends meet. “For me to go out on my own and have to pay $300 a week in rent, as well as rising power costs and food, would mean I am well and truly screwed,” he said. “I’m beginning to understand why people put guns to their heads, or sit in the dark covered in blankets to avoid paying higher power bills.” Larry has been contacting real estate agents but without success. Ideally, he is looking for space in a holiday house where he believes having someone around throughout the year would improve an owner’s sense of security. “Even a cottage or a bungalow on a farm is very rarely available,” he said. “That’s all I’m after.”

No place like home: Larry is finding it tough to find an affordable place to live. Picture: Yanni

strong in Rosebud, McCrae, and Safety Beach. “Over the past 12 months rents have gone up 5-10 per cent with a stronger demand for permanent rentals and lower rents.” Tight vacancy rates and rising rents are a confronting reality for low-income earners. Council to Homeless Persons’ Lanie Harris said the September 2017 Department of Health and Human Services

Rent Report found that only eight per cent of rentals were affordable for those on low-incomes. A decade ago 58 per cent would have been affordable. Having fewer rental properties on the market in holiday areas can also pushes up prices. The situation is particularly dire for single parents with children on Centrelink incomes wanting to rent two-bedroom units. The DHHS report shows

only 16 two-bedroom rentals available on the peninsula were affordable to a single parent without incurring rent stress, or when 30 per cent of income goes on rent. Finding a suitable property on the peninsula is often “impossible” for single people out of work, Ms Harris said. “Someone on Newstart receives just $335 week, including Commonwealth

rent assistance. That doesn’t stretch far when the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $230.” The DHHS Rent Report found there was “not one single-bedroom rental on the peninsula that someone on Newstart could rent without being in rent stress”. Ms Harris said even in a share house the situation was “impossible for very low income earners”.

Protests over retirement village plan A ROW is brewing over plans to build a retirement village off Roberts Rd, Mornington. Residents are rallying to halt Steller Estates’ proposed 371-unit development on 20 hectares at the south end of Roberts Rd. The land is zoned Low Density Residential and designated a horse precinct. The company’s planning permit application was knocked back by Mornington Peninsula Shire but it is appealing to VCAT. Steller has been directed to notify affected neighbours. Steller told council that its retirement village submission “responds to the evident need for affordable retirement living on the Mornington Peninsula as Victoria’s population ages and housing pressure extends to the peninsula.”

Shire executive manager planning services David Bergin said the application was refused as it was “not sympathetic to the low scale transition area between Mornington and the green wedge”. He said it was inconsistent with the peninsula’s localised planning statement and had the “potential to impact on the neighbouring conservation reserve and [could cause] potential conflict with the neighbouring race course”. The land backs onto Balcombe Creek and the existing reserve and acts as a buffer to the creek and Tyabb Rd. Residents of nearby properties have links to Mornington racecourse. Roberts Rd is gated between Tyabb-Mornington and Bungower roads because of the number of horses being taken to and from the racecourse.

Former shire mayor Cr Bev Colomb said the council rejected the Steller proposal “very early in the process as it is not appropriate for this area”. “It does not fit into the council approved Mornington North plan or our housing and settlement strategy.” She said the area was complementary to the racecourse and should remain low density residential with large blocks. There are also environmental reasons with its proximity to Balcombe Creek for it to remain as it is, she said. Stephen Taylor TRAFFIC counts for the gated Roberts Rd, Mornington make no mention of the many horses which are daily taken from there to neighbouring Mornington racecourse. Picture: Yanni

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