Rental stress hotspots emerge across Melbourne: new report

Media release: Saturday 21 August 2021

Pandemic lockdowns hurting renters harder in absence of rent protection

Tenants Victoria says targeted protections for Victorian renters who have been stood down from jobs or lost income due to lockdowns must be implemented urgently with new evidence pointing to mounting COVID-rent arrears across Melbourne’s suburbs.

A new data snapshot survey conducted by the peak body in the wake of the state’s fifth lockdown found that 69% said they were financially impacted by lockdowns and more than half said they were struggling to pay rent. The average financial loss per day was $108 per renter of the 684 people who participated in the survey.

With no less than three COVID-19 lockdowns without any targeted tenancy protections in place, Tenants Victoria says 2021 has brought a winter of discontent for affected Victorian renters. In the absence of an adequate safety net, too many people struggle to pay their rent as stringent public health restrictions to counter the pandemic continue to reduce incomes and limit mobility, said CEO Jennifer Beveridge.

‘We’re really worried about the extent of rent stress in the community. People’s financial struggles have really accelerated as a result of public health lockdowns.

‘Significant numbers of Victorian renters are telling us they are struggling to pay their rent and they face the very real risk of eviction at a time when, for the sake our health, we are still being directed to stay at home. The policy response from the Victorian Government must include the suspension of evictions during a lockdown period and financial grants for renters.’

Tenants Victoria’s has also mapped the local government areas (LGAs) with the most respondents to its survey where half or more said lockdown 5 affected their ability to pay rent.

The areas identified as ‘rental stress hotspots’ were: Greater Dandenong, Yarra, Hume, Frankston, Moreland, Melbourne, Brimbank, Maribyrnong, Glen Eira, Port Phillip and Darebin. See the map and corresponding data table at the end of this media release.

Pandemic pain: Victorian renters’ lockdown experiences

To investigate tenancy lockdown experiences immediately after the fifth lockdown ended, Tenants Victoria conducted the snapshot survey of renters from 28 July to 3 August. Within 48 hours of the conclusion of the survey, Victoria entered a sixth lockdown.

We asked renters about their financial experience of the 12-day lockdown 5. Some 684 responded from 61 of Victoria’s 79 LGAs, with four-fifths living in Melbourne.

The survey also asked renters to share their COVID-19 rental story, and in particular whether previous lockdowns in Victoria had affected their ability to pay rent.

One response included this stark self-assessment from a sole trader: ‘I have had to rely on my savings to pay my rent… I am 49, have no income and do not own a home. I only have $30,000 superannuation. I will end up homeless when I retire’.

Farah Farouque, Tenants Victoria’s Director of Community Engagement said: ‘The very personal experiences renters shared in our survey paint a sobering picture of people’s struggles amid the economic and social fallout of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

‘We need to strengthen the safety net available to struggling renters or else we run the risk of creating a whole new class of vulnerable Victorians.’

The Victorian Government’s previous pandemic tenancy protections, including a year-long moratorium on rent arrears-related eviction and a cash grant subsidy, lapsed in March this year.

Key findings

  • 69% reported that they had been financially impacted by lockdown 5
  • Just over half of the overall respondents in the snapshot survey said the lockdown had affected their ability to pay rent
  • The cumulative effect of the pandemic was a key driver for their financial insecurity
  • Renters whose jobs were flexible and were able to work from home generally reported less financial impact than those who had no choice but to leave their homes to work
  • Many reported that they had depleted their savings, or already accessed their superannuation, so that when another lockdown occurred, they were less able to manage.
  • Landlords’ and real estate agents’ attitudes were a key factor in renters’ ability to manage their situation

Download Tenants Victoria’s report on the survey: Pandemic pain: Victorian renters in lockdown

Media inquiries: Farah Farouque, Director of Community Engagement, at farah.farouque@tenantsvic.org.au

Map: LGAs where more respondents said lockdown affected ability to pay rent

Data table: LGAs where more respondents said lockdown affected ability to pay rent

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