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Backyard rentals charge ‘vulnerable’ Aussies $250 just to pitch tent

A patch of dirt, concrete or grass is now being offered for $250 a week.

Illegal backyard rentals are being advertised online in a bid to “take advantage” of vulnerable Australians unable to find somewhere to live.

The national median rent has surpassed $600 a week (or $31,252 a year) and the property market hit record highs across the country again, making finding an affordable place to live a serious issue for an increasing number of people.

Red flags have been raised with charities trying to support those being pushed to the brink of homelessness in Brisbane as advertisements are posted on social media for people to pay $250 just to rent out a part of a backyard to pitch a tent or park a caravan.

Two backyards, one with grass and another a concrete slab.
Renting in Australia has just gotten more dire, with a patch of grass or concrete being advertised for $250 a week. (Source: 9News)

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Karyn Walsh from community advocates Micah Projects said the rentals were illegal as they do not offer amenities, and therefore breach council regulations.


"It’s taking advantage of just how vulnerable and desperate people are,” she told 9News.

In Sydney, an online advertisement offered a "room" for $185 a week, considerably lower than the median asking price of $680 for a unit. However, photos showed it was just single mattress on the floor of a tiled living room cordoned off by room dividers.

Tenant’s advocate Jordan van den Berg said it was a concern that desperate Australians would considering taking such depressing lodgings.

"I’ve seen people listing just balconies, literally a balcony closed off. It’s not appropriate," he told Yahoo Finance.

A single mattress on the floor of a living room cordoned off with room dividers and an inset of a bathroom.
A single mattress on the floor of a living room cordoned off with room dividers is being offered for rent in Sydney for $185. (Source: Facebook)

The average household now needs to spend 31 per cent of its income to pay the median rent, according to CoreLogic. That’s up from 26.7 per cent in March 2020.

That percentage get far more “dire” for low income households, with those on JobSeeker needing to spend more than 75 per cent of their pay on a one-bedroom apartment in any capital, according to research from SGS Economics and National Shelter.

The huge disparities in wages and cost of rent, along with supply shortages, are pushing more Australians into homelessness.

There are 3,000 Australians who will reach out to homeless services every hour, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s homelessness report.

Mission Australia said there’s been a 26 per cent increase in people seeking homelessness support, with a 50 per cent jump in the number of those who are already at their last resort.

A concrete slab in a back yard.
Social media advertisements could offer an out for those facing homelessness, but are "taking advantage of the vulnerable". (Source: 9News)

CEO Sharon Callister said the country’s “dysfunctional housing system” is the “worst it’s ever been” and people are being forced to choose between putting food on the table, paying their bills or keeping a roof over their heads.

“It’s increasing the risk of homelessness for many, including people in paid employment and those who are staring down the barrel of homelessness for the first time in their lives.

“There isn’t enough accommodation options for everyone who needs it, and these days, finding a rental that’s affordable is like finding a needle in a haystack.”

What is the median rent in Australia?

Here’s a snapshot of Australia’s current weekly rental costs and annual price changes, according to CoreLogic.

  • Sydney: $745, up 10.2%

  • Melbourne: $565, up 11.1%

  • Brisbane: $627, up 8.2%

  • Adelaide: $565, up 7.7%

  • Perth: $630, up 13.4%

  • Hobart: $535, down 3.5%

  • Darwin: $611, up 3%

  • Canberra: $651, down 1.9%

Mission Australia has called for the government to double the current Commonwealth REnt Assistance and income boost income support payments to at least $78 a day to address the “homelessness disaster”.

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