Three homes being built in Wodonga and 12 others planned for northern Victoria aim to increase the pool of affordable rentals, presently at its lowest levels for at least 18 years.
Construction on the central one-bedroom units, Beyond Housing’s response to the rising demand for singles accommodation, began last week and is due to finish at the end of November.
A Victorian government property fund grant contributed $1.2 million to the present project, with Border builder Alatalo Bros completing the work.
Beyond Housing chief executive Celia Adams said nearly half of the 3600 people who sought help from the group’s homelessness services last year were single, often men or young people.
The proportion of affordable rental lettings – where no more than 30 per cent of gross income is spent on rent – in regional Victoria dropped to 50.5 per cent in the March quarter, the worst result since the government’s Rental Report began measuring this in 2000.
Over those years, the proportion has decreased about 30 per cent, affected by a higher need for rental houses because more people are struggling to buy their own home.
“That then obviously compresses the private rental space,” Ms Adams said.
“Just because it exists in the market doesn’t mean our people can access it because it’s so highly competitive, landlords are getting 30 or 40 applications for each property.”
Last quarter only 32 one-bedroom properties in the Goulburn-Ovens-Murray region met the rental benchmark for Newstart recipients of $150 a week.
Alatalo sales manager Michelle Brown said the three units would include energy efficient features like double glazing, instantaneous hot water and extra insulation.
“Once someone’s in it, they know that they can afford to live in this home and they’re not going to be getting huge utility bills,” she said.
Ms Adams said three Shepparton units had also started construction while philanthropic funding would enable Beyond Housing to build nine more in Wangaratta, Shepparton and Seymour.
“Three units doesn’t seem like many when we’re talking about a problem as big as what we’re talking about, but it is a start,” she said.
“And it’s really important that community organisations like ours and government work together, like we have with this funding from the Victorian property fund to construct affordable housing.”
The eventual tenants will pay up to 30 per cent less than the market rental value, depending on their circumstances, and will be able to settle into secure housing.
“Be part of their community, build connections, build relationships and actually have a chance to build a life,” Ms Adams said.
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