Census data shows rental crisis impact

Rentals are becoming increasingly unavailable in the Yarra Ranges. Picture: ON FILE

By Callum Ludwig

The rental property crisis in the Yarra Ranges has been further highlighted by initial statistics from the 2021 Census.

The Yarra Ranges as whole rents far less than the rest of the state and country with only 14 per cent of the population of the area renting, compared to 28.5 per cent and 30.6 at a state and national level respectively.

Director of Professionals Yarra Valley Ashleigh Hall said the number of rental properties in the area has declined massively in his time in the real estate industry.

“I’ve been in real estate for over 20 years and when I started there were a lot of rental properties around our area, but they were ageing properties and houses that were previously rentals have been snapped up by first home buyers,” he said.

“A lot of rentals have been in the same ownership for the past 15, 20 or 30 years and need work. I’ve been working with two landlords recently who have owned theirs for 25 years and want to turn those over to have money for their retirement as well.”

Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Report for 2022 in the Yarra Ranges saw the number of advertised properties in the area decrease from 82 in 2021 to 73 in 2022.

Mr Hall said traditionally rentals were not attractive for investors in the Yarra Ranges.

“Originally, the amount of rent that they were getting was quite low compared to the property price. It wasn’t an area that people would look at as a straight investment to buy an investment property,” he said.

“The capital growth was there but hadn’t been there previously and in recent years prices in our area have gone up a lot, but we’d still been one of the most affordable areas for first home buyers to buy, so even an investor may have wanted to buy a house, they have often been outbid by prospective first home buyers.”

34 per cent of renting households according to the 2021 Census reported that their rent payments were more than 30 per cent of their household income, indicating that rental affordability is also on the decline in line with the rising inflation and wage growth stagnation seen in Victoria and nationwide. For the reference of readers, this stat cannot be compared to historical data as applicable households in the calculation changed from prior censuses.

According to Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Report for 2022, the median weekly rent in the Yarra Ranges was $455 in March 2022, compared to $430 a year ago. It was even lower according to the 2021 Census, with median rent at $380.

Mr Hall said he has seen the effect the lack of rental housing has had on renters.

“We’ve been selling rental properties and the tenants who’ve moved out have had to actually move to other areas because they have not been able to get a rental back in back in the same area they were living,” he said.

“I think it’s a massive issue Australia-wide and definitely Victoria-wide. It’s a shame local people need to leave the area, even with kids going to local schools and things like that, it’s really sad the government haven’t got ways to help these people buy a house, even though they have been trying with incentives.”

Local residents have taken to social media to accuse short-stay accommodations like AirBnB of being responsible for the lack of rental availability in the area.

Mr Hall said he doesn’t believe short-stay properties are to blame.

“These properties probably aren’t the ones that would traditionally have been rental houses. I met with some short-stay owners today and the reason they buy the short-stay properties is they want to use it themselves,” he said.

“A lot of these people may work from home, even part-time, so they may spend a week up here and use it as a short stay to subsidise having the property in the meantime. “

A trend of landlords selling up has also been seen following the changes in the Tenancy Act that came into play on the 29 March 2021, which for better or worse, included a ban on rental bidding, new rental minimum standards, no eviction without a reason, allowable modifications by renters such as painting and urgent repairs. As a result, some landlords have felt the hassle of owning investment properties has outweighed the benefits.

Despite the concerning trends, Mr Hall said there is plenty of opportunity in the Yarra Ranges now for potential investors.

“If someone was looking to buy an investment property, I think the area the area has a lot to offer especially as rent has definitely gone up a lot, and I still think it is an area that has room to improve growth-wise,” he said.

“While landlords and renters alike traditionally do not like spending money on rental houses, now traditional rental areas have seen property owners painting them, doing the fences and improving the gardens and all those types of things. With such a low vacancy rate as well, it makes it a lot easier to get good tenants.”