Hunter Housing crisis hurting singles too

DOING IT TOUGH: Vicki Jordan has been couch surfing for more than two years, is on the public housing waiting list, cant afford to rent.Picture: JONATHAN CARROLLA SHORTAGE of single bedroom homes is exacerbating the Hunter’s 10-plus year public housing waiting list, and denying the region’s most vulnerable people access to the system.

State government figures show that 60per cent of those living in social housing are single people without children.

But an ageing base of properties built when public housing was geared towards larger families is causing longer than necessary waiting lists that are choking the system and failing to serve the region’s demographics.

Across the Hunter one bedroom housing makes up 51per cent of the assets owned by the Department of Family and Community Services. In Newcastle, that figure drops to only 37per cent of its 4552 public housing properties.

In Raymond Terrace, one of the region’s most disadvantaged socio-economic areas, only 11per cent of the 744 public housing properties in the town are one bedroom.

Vicki Jordan, a single woman living in Raymond Terrace, is a victim of the undersupply.

Two and a half years ago she moved from Cessnock after a relationship breakdown.

She lost her casual job as a cleaner before Christmas in 2013 after she broke her arm, and has not been able to find work since.

Unable to afford private rentals on her single-person centrelink payment, Ms Jordan has been forced to rely on charity from family and friends, sleeping on couches and spare beds.

She said the constant stress of looking for private rentals and trying to get into public housing had left her mentally drained.

‘‘I feel like I’m going insane,’’ she said.

‘‘I write letters to housing, visit real estates, bounce around everywhere and nothing works.’’

Rental figures accurate to September showed the median price of a one bedroom home in Port Stephens was $205, a year-on-year increase of about 5per cent.

Ms Jordan said if she paid $205 a week in rent it would leave her with $100 to spend on food, bills and petrol.

If she were able to access public housing her rent would equate to about $76, but across Port Stephens wait times for one bedroom homes are listed as 10-plus years.

Adopted as a child, Ms Jordan says she’s only made contact with her family in the last few years. They all live in Raymond Terrace, and she said the thought of leaving ‘‘is terrifying’’.

‘‘I’d be by myself again, and I don’t really want to have to do that,’’ she said.

She also says she feels discriminated against and ‘‘judged’’ by private rental companies because she’s unemployed.

‘‘I wish I could tell the people there that they could be in my shoes one day too, there are a lot of people going through this sort of thing,’’ she said.

The Newcastle Herald previously revealed there are currently more than 4500 applicants on the Hunter’s growing public housing waiting list, and estimates of as many as 15,000 in the region suffering severe housing stress.

Much of the criticism of the system is aimed at investment in housing stock – since 2012 the department of family and community services has sold some 170 public housing properties in the Hunter New England district while only building 130 new dwellings.

All proceeds of sales are reinvested back into the portfolio, as required by the Housing Act 2001.

In 2014-15, Family and Community Services will invest $612 million in new building and maintenance of the public housing portfolio, a 23per cent increase on 2013-14.

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