We’ve heard about terrible flatmates, but how about terrible tent mates?
Renters in Melbourne have been caught on Gumtree advertising tents on balconies instead of bedrooms to take advantage of the rental crisis.
One tent room was advertised in Southbank at a cost of $90 a week, with the seller noting that the apartment is already home to three people, and the tent dweller will have a mattress and electricity. They would also be able to use the attached apartment, which included a living room, two toilets, a kitchen and two fridges.
The fact that people are desperate enough to move into this ‘low-cost’ housing says volumes about the current desperation of renters wanting an affordable living option close to the city. Flatmates.com.au chief executive Thomas Clement said that as housing becomes less affordable, cost-saving solutions were bound to occur.
“More and more people want to live closer to the city centre and I believe that’s where some of the issues come in,” he said. “The average price for a room in the Melbourne CBD is about $279 a week but the average for the whole of Melbourne is $217 a week.”
However he did not agree with those advertising the tents, believing that those who would consider the living arrangement were letting their desire to live centrally outweigh logic and common sense.
“A lot of people are having affordability issues but the easy solution is move out of the city a little bit.”
With modern public transport, and a number of suburbs around Melbourne that offer cheaper rents, it makes more sense to shift a little outside of the city than it does to live in a tent on someone’s balcony. But there is a serious lack of accommodation available with around 1,000 people looking for a room on the Flatmates.com.au website, and only 176 rooms available.
This ‘in-tents’ situation echoes a similar situation that authorities are struggling with in Sydney as increasing cost of rent forces more and more people into apartments together. In particular lower income workers, students and migrants are falling prey to landlords who are filling apartments up with bunkbeds and charging an outlandish number of residents rent there.
In both cases, the desperation of tenants and their inability to balance their focus on living centrally in the city with their available budgets has led to unbelievable situations. Certainly we couldn’t imagine paying almost $100 to live in a tent site on an open balcony, and the fact that people are accepting these rentals makes a worrying statement about rental affordability in modern Australia. And it isn’t getting any better.
Property Council Australia’s deputy executive director of the Victorian division Asher Judah said that in Victoria the availability of affordable housing was getting worse every year. He blamed the immense cost of stamp duty, which in the state has risen 795% in the last 20 years alone. He believes that increasing housing supply and improving private investment into affordable housing is the key.
Amazingly, these tent slums are not illegal under the City of Melbourne’s local laws, or in any planning and building regulations. However, there are rules about occupancy, and those apartments subletting to other tenants needed to be aware of them.
Until that changes, and until more affordable housing is available in the Melbourne CBD, it looks like it’s tent city on balconies everywhere! It’s like a dirty festival all year around.