Occident Prone

Welcome to Australia’s wild West

Give me a home among the gum trees … or anywhere

Posted by occidentprone on July 16, 2008

The New York Times reports that more struggling Americans are taking in boarders to cover costs in the housing disaster over there. This helps the homebuyers battling to make ends meet and it gives cheap rent to the otherwise homeless.

Could this be a trend here in WA – as if the desperate haven’t already thought of it – where agencies mediate between would-be boarders and landlords.

Like other home-sharing agencies, St. Ambrose conducts background checks on both parties, screening out people with criminal records or histories of drug or alcohol abuse, or those who cannot afford to be stable homeowners or renters. A 10-point questionnaire sorts candidates’ feelings about pets, smoking, overnight guests and other points of compatibility.

“So far we’ve had no bodily damage,” said Annette Brennan, the program’s director (St. Ambrose provides a full range of housing services). “I say that quietly so as not to jinx it.”

In some communities, local zoning laws or homeowner associations may limit the number of nonrelated people who can live in a house. Ms. Brennan said that home-sharing could help some people caught in the housing downturn, but that its benefits were limited.

“Where we see it being of value is if someone is having short-term problems,” she said. “The average stay of a sharer is about a year, and some are much less. It’s good for someone leaving a marriage or a relationship, or going to school. You can’t count on it as a regular income. It’s a stopgap.”

Nearly 1000 people a week are moving to WA after hearing the streets are paved with gold, and experts and economists say the state needs that many to staff the boom.

There will inevitably be even more people falling in the gaps if their expectations are not met; if they can’t afford to live where the jobs are; if their relationship disintegrates after arrival; if they have health or other problems while isolated from friends and family interstate or overseas. It happens to people attracted to the bright lights of LA and New York and London, it happened to those who rushed to the gold fields in the 1800s, it’s happening anywhere there’s a fortune to be made.

Last year, Mission Australia said:

One of WA’s leading providers of crisis accommodation services has seen a large increase in the number of families needing housing support who are unable to pay the spiralling rents and mortgages brought about by the state’s booming housing market.
Between July and December 2003, Mission Australia’s Wattle House community service in Maddington received 329 requests for housing from families. Three and a half years later, between January and June 2007, the same service had 439 families requiring housing support – an increase of more than 30 per cent.
Mission Australia’s State Director, WA, Angie Paskevicius, said due to the large increase in housing prices and rents in Perth and WA over the past three years, more and more families were finding themselves homeless, at risk of homelessness, or living in overcrowded and unsuitable accommodation.

There’s another boom going on here too, a boom in social disasters, but it’s difficult to spot if you’ve got your eye on the stock market or your rental property.

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