Out of work and fearful over homes

Augusta Margaret River Times
Just Home chairwoman and Shire councillor Naomi Godden.
Camera IconJust Home chairwoman and Shire councillor Naomi Godden.

Local not-for-profit group Just Home says increasing numbers of residents are seeking housing help in the wake of job losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group’s efforts were boosted by a further $113,000 in Shire of Augusta-Margaret River funding late last week for its role as a local housing advocacy service.

Just Home chairwoman and Shire councillor Naomi Godden said there were anecdotal reports of local rents dropping slightly, with some short-term rentals now leased to residents.

But Just Home remained concerned that a short-term emergency accommodation reprieve would not fix the region’s affordable housing problems.

“The State and Federal governments must begin planning for ongoing, secure housing for all,” she said.

“We call on all levels of government to work together to invest in the construction of additional social housing in regional communities like Augusta-Margaret River as a response to the pandemic.

“This will support community members experiencing homelessness and family and domestic violence to transition from emergency accommodation into secure, affordable housing, while providing much-needed work for the local construction industry.”

Shire president Ian Earl said the funding boost from the Shire’s $2 million community care package would help Just Home for the next three months.

“The COVID-19 situation escalated quite quickly and many community members felt the impact very early on,” he said.

“The Shire is very fortunate to have a range of established support services in the community who have been able to respond rapidly to a very difficult situation,” he said.

JMW real estate principal Joe White told the Times COVID-19 was “having a significant effect on the property market,” but the full consequences would not be known for several months.

Demand for rentals had increased due to self-isolation requirements, which meant some holiday homes were now leased as residential properties. He had not seen any downturn in rental prices yet.

Renters as well as landlords with mortgages were suffering from the crisis, Mr White said.

“The number of people who can’t pay anything and/or have an immediate need for rent are actually relatively small,” he said.

“This looks to be an acute, but relatively short-term crisis period which is calling on all of us to act with restraint and measured responses.”

Cr Godden said increases to welfare payments to help renters did not apply to those on disability support pensions and carer’s allowance, which should be included in Commonwealth support and made permanent.

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