A 45 year-old Melbourne mother who has lived in 39 rentals has shared the toll it has taken on her family’s security and finances, eroding her chance of owning a home.
Small business owner Sharon Westin, who has been renting since she was 17, is enduring Australia’s rental crisis.
Ms Westin told 3AW Mornings host Neil Mitchell today she has spent a large portion of a potential house deposit on the cost of moving regularly, and is at the “mercy of the landlord” when they sell to an owner-occupier.
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You can only stay in a property if it trades to another investor.
“In the last 15 years the rental prices have gone up, but I’ve also spent between $50,000 and $60,000 on moving house,” she told Mitchell and his listeners this morning.
“So any time I actually save some money I get that notice in the mail to say I have to leave and I have to spend another $5000 to $10,000 to move.”
The longest Sharon Westin has stayed in one rental in Melbourne is six years. (Paul Rovere/The age)
Westin is hanging onto hope she will buy a property one day.
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“I keep thinking about it, but realistically I can’t see it in my new future,” she told Mitchell.
Speaking afterwards to Nine, Ms Westin said every time she posts a social media photo of a “sold” sign on her latest rental, her friends react with sympathy but few can truly understand the depth of stress she experiences.
“It’s [moving] in the top ten most stressful things you can do in your life,” she told Nine.
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“I have some horror stories, honestly.”
There is a stigma attached to being a long-term renter, she said, describing judgment on other people’s faces when she discusses her circumstances.
For her most recent and 39th move, Ms Westin inspected 33 properties before she was successful. (today)
The national vacancy rate is a record low 1 percent, according to Domain market data for the March quarter. It is the tightest vacancy rate since domain records started five years ago.
Ms Westin has been in her current rental for two months, but due to the competitiveness of the rental market, she inspected 33 properties before she was the successful applicant for her 39th lease.
She lived for three years in the rental before, and nine months and 14 months prior to that.
Ms Westin works three jobs, as a graphic designer and running art and meditation retreats and children’s art classes, to make ends meet.
The longest she has stayed in one rental in six years.
Major parties have pledged first-home buyer schemes but Sharon Westin says longer leases would help. (AAP)
“My kids are 14 and 16 and they have been in nine homes already,” Ms Westin said.
She tries to move within the same suburb to allow her sons to attend the same school, and those costs have also reduced her capacity to save for a house deposit.
“I will pay whatever I have to pay in rent so my kids can stay in the same school.”
Ms Westin’s self-published book Unmasking The Past includes details of her housing struggle.
She said for renters like her to afford a property, the industry should be overhauled to provide longer-term leases.
“If we can choose a long lease to start with…that is never an option, I have begged for a two year lease and I only ever get a 12 month lease…but not having to move so often and pay out those costs that could be put into savings,” Ms Westin said.