I was in Perth (Western Australia) for the past 24 hours to view some postgraduate housing near my university. I was hoping that I could find something suitable and cut though the red tape of real estate agencies or owners who have dozens of applicants to choose from.
Also, being right next to campus should be a bonus, I don’t have a car so being within walking distance of uni, shops and public transport made these sound ideal, at least on paper. It was rude shock when I saw the places available, they were small, dark and in generally terrible condition. In fact the only thing they did have going for them was the location – the price, while reasonable for the rather prestigious area, was/is still ridiculously high. Which brings me to my point.
I am currently earning reasonable money and I am on my own, my oldest son is still a drain on finances as he is living on Austudy (Australian living allowance for students) but that barely pays his rent – and that is the catch in WA. The property price boom from a few years back sent prices skyrocketing and has left a huge divide between owners and renters and many people have found themselves unable to pay rent and living expenses or worse, homeless. A quick look at any rental site shows that the lower price bracket for 1 or 2 bedroom apartments outside of a 20km radius of the city is $380-$400. If you would like a place that wasn’t built in the (architectually-challenged) 60’s or 70’s, have original axminster carpeting or that has an extra bedroom and is perhaps acceptable to install children in then you are looking at $450 – $500. If you want to live closer to the city then the sky is the limit. Many people don’t earn much more than these prices in actual wages so how are they meant to pay rent plus bills and feed themselves/their kids? The short answer is – they can’t and with the waiting list for public housing currently estimated at 5 years minimum, what do people do while they are waiting?
The landlords who bought after the boom are well within their rights to charge high rents, they need to cover mortgages and many are subsidising even these high rents from their own pockets. It’s the people who already owned and who are capitalising who get on my wick. It’s possible to make a decent profit without sending your tenants to the poor-house (no pun intended) surely??
I had a mini panic attack while in the city. I was appalled at the size and price of the properties offered by the university (and my dreams of a boho postgrad existence were gone *poof* – just like that) and I spent the 4 hours bus ride home on the internet searching gumtree.com for possible solutions.
I did find a couple of places but as expected they already had applicants, sometimes within an hour of posting the ad. The biggest problem here is that no-one will allow you to apply for a rental property without first viewing said property (hence my trip to the city) but as I live 4 hours away, I can’t just hop a bus any old time – the timing of buses can mean an overnight hotel stay which gets real expensive, real fast (although the hotel I stayed in had 2 wall-mounted TV’s and a great bath).
So, options dwindled and my anxiety is back up to critical levels again. The one and only actual house offered by the university (everything else was apartments and pretty awful ones at that) was apparently offered to an international student yesterday even though I was told that I had to attend today, apply by Monday and they would sort through applicants on Tuesday, Wednesday, advising by Friday as to who was being allocated a property. I have emailed the uni trying to address the discrepancy in information and am waiting for them to respond (I got an email asking me to meet on campus WHILE I was on a coach some 150km’s away – what don’t people get when you tell them that you don’t live in the city?).
In the meantime, I found a great property, close to a bus line that goes to uni I am studying at and uni I am working at with the nearest bus stop being a few doors away. It looks like a great property in a good location but it is almost $800 a month more than I am paying now and I am taking a decrease in salary in order to study. I can certainly try to get more teaching hours than I planned to but I am trying to build a life that allows me to pursue my PhD and NOT spend all of my time marking. I know that as adults without a trust fund we all have to make sacrifices and I am actually fine with paying my own way, I just hope that I am able to sustain myself and not end up on the street. You see, that is the thing – with prices like they are, people are becoming homeless, they are committing crimes in order to eat. We are in the midst of a massive social change for the worst and no-one seems to care or ready to do anything about it – those of us looking for homes are too busy competing with each other to find a roof for our kids to seriously contemplate social action and let’s face it, what action can we take? Perhaps if every single person who is currently looking to rent stopped applying for just 2 weeks, we could force the agents and the landlords to lower their prices. If the landlords stopped buying properties at Manhattan prices (I am not exaggerating) then sellers would be forced to drop their prices and maybe, we could stop this insanity.