The latest rental vacancy statistics show the slightest uptick for the Capes region, though available homes remain worryingly low and beneath pre-pandemic levels. Renters in the City of Busselton and the Augusta-Margaret River shires have already seen weekly costs jump dramatically since 2020. And while new home builds – spurred by a real-estate frenzy sparked by the pandemic – were slowly coming online for renters, the latest PropTrack market report was a dire illustration of the shortages faced by tenants. The February 2023 findings, released this week, showed the shortage was worse than previously reported, with an improvement of 0.59 per cent lifting the overall percentage of vacant housing stock to 0.92 per cent. The news was even worse for Bunbury renters, who saw just a 0.09 per cent uptick, lifting vacancies to 0.77 per cent of existing stock. “Both of those regions are actually trending upward — up 0.59 and 0.09 percentage points year-on-year,” a PropTrack spokesperson said. “However, both region’s vacancy rates are down from pre-pandemic levels.” Media reports last year eyed a one per cent rate as the worst vacancy levels for rental homes in recent history. Overall regional WA rental stocks fell during the past 12 months, now sitting at 1.61 per cent. PropTrack senior economist and report author Paul Ryan said regional WA’s rental vacancy rate dipped slightly in February, down 0.16 percentage points, according to the latest Market Insight Report. “The report found that despite the monthly uptick, regional WA’s vacancy rate is still down 57 per cent from pre-pandemic levels in March 2020,” he said. In December, Just Home Margaret River manager Alex Hughes said less wealthy residents were feeling the pinch amid low stock numbers. “We know there has been less than one per cent vacancy rates for rentals over the past 12 months, creating high levels of competition when trying to secure housing,” he said. “This has led to an increase in rental costs, which for many Augusta-Margaret River residents is leading to devastating housing stress.” Real Estate Institute of WA president Joe White, a Dunsborough-based realtor, said new homes were coming on to the market despite congestion in the construction sector. However, it was yet to be determined how many new homes would go to tenants, with the pandemic spurring a huge population relocation to the South West.