Unless you plan on setting up camp in your parent’s basement for eternity (ill-advised), then it’s almost a certainty you’ll have to navigate the rental market. If you haven’t endured the hell on earth experience already. It starts off as simple as online shopping, scrolling through Domain or Flatmates with eager eyes and a hopeful demeanour. But just like your hopes are dashed in a moment once you filter the price low to high when browsing online, your dreams of living in a decent place lie in tatters.
For instance, how is it ok to list a property online without a single photo? Can you imagine ASOS trying to sell a button up without a single image. Look, they’re likely to reel in the hipster crowd with that play, but when searching for a roof over your head surely more information is deserved. Minuscule studios with fold out beds, share rooms with too many humans to sustain clean breathing air or a bathroom that looks decidedly medieval, litter your search. It’s easy to get disheartened, but at least you have a faint hope for a modern apartment that’s decently priced, managed responsibly and well maintained, on the horizon. Well, not so much.
A Choice report surveying Aussie renters found just how dire the situation is, just have a look at the hashtag #RentinOz in case you think we’re exaggerating. Exploited, manipulated and dutifully kept quiet, renters do not fare well in Oz. They say everyone hates real estate agents (sorry, Dad), but with this survey in mind it’s easy to see why. With negative gearing landlords wielding the reigns and agents acting as the enforcers, young Aussie renters are forced to navigate a system that’s built to squeeze every dollar out of them. And all they can do is shut up and think of the rental reference at the end of the tunnel, all while inhaling mould spores and listening to an unending dripping tap. Oh and pray they get their bond back.
Unfortunately it’s a perpetual issue, as soon as first time renters are handed the keys they’re likely in it for life. I’m not here to lament housing prices once again, but for a system to handle what’s soon to be the majority of the population, it’s just not structured for the volume of people. Younger Australians in particular are getting stuck in the rental market, with no Aussie acreage dream to claw themselves out to pursue. Choice found one in five renters under the age of 35 have already been locked into renting for more than ten years. Sentenced to a lifetime of neglected rights and confined living at a premium.
You’d think it’s a simple equation, rents increase with income, but there’s a disparity among young people. Forcing renters into unfit dwellings or scraping by to support their decent living situation. Research found that while young people in general earn less they sit at both ends of the scale. While one in five young Aussie’s are paying less than $150 in rent a week (where exactly?!), 40% pay more than $300 a week. By budgeting standards 30% of your income should go to your rent, so that’s ideally a salary of $52,000. Before tax and HECS debt of course. What’s more likely is a massive proportion of your hard earned cash goes to rent, leaving all but crumbs left to scramble through the reduced to clear section at Coles in search of food.
Apparently young people are irresponsible. A mass generalisation that anchors the rental selection process still today. A real estate agent is more likely to pick a double income family than a bunch of rowdy youngens’, it’s a simple fact. But what if in reality, the young people are hardworking, respectful, dutiful tenants moreso than the cash-strapped family? Don’t be silly. Young people are evil, just watch Today Tonight.
As if all young people have an untapped Corey Worthington potential locked within them, discrimination in the rental space is rife. Young renters are 55% more likely to be discriminated against when renting, with 22% noting it was directly related to their age. Renters in less robust rental markets reported less discrimination, with NT, Tassie and ACT residents noting less than the national average.
Culture Of Fear
With such an arduous course of obstacles to overcome before even renting, you can see why young people who do rent are scared to rock the boat. Even if the boat has no electricity, a hole in the roof or no air con. Seriously. There’s the constant worry that if you complain, you’ll be kicked out. Destined to a life of renting more questionable quarters thanks to your poor rental record and lack of references.
Landlords tug at the purse strings ever so tightly, offering an overall lack of decency when it comes to housing upkeep. Just try to get your real estate agent or strata management to pay for something, I dare you. Ill-equiped to handle the situations that arise young Aussies are left calling Mum and Dad to understand their rights. And if you’re lucky they’ll call the estate agent on your behalf, just like they did in primary school.
So until the rental system and laws understand the needs of young Aussies, we’re stuck with the short straw. Or more likely, cramped into a terrace house with shotty hot water with five strangers. It’s not all bleak though, with the Federal Member for Mallee is shopping the idea of scrapping the 20% housing deposit. He says “Essentially what a bank needs to do is see that a person has the capacity to service a loan … what a government needs to do is make sure a person who wants to purchase their first home can get into the property market.” Oh what a world that would be.
Image source: Hello Giggles, HW.