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27 May, 2021

Generous loan saves homeless family

A LOCAL working mum is calling for something to be done about the Cairns rental crisis, after being homeless for a month.

By Tanya Murphy

Vanessa Glennon and her son Mylo have been sharing this bed in a friend’s spare room while trying to get accepted for a rental property.

Vanessa Glennon spent the past month sleeping between a friend’s couch and another friend’s spare room with her son Mylo, 13, and cat Newman after being rejected for dozens of rentals.

Ms Glennon had to offer to pay the full rent upfront, sight unseen, for an entire six-month lease, to finally secure a two-bedroom unit in Yorkeys Knob, which she will move into this weekend.

She was only able to afford the upfront payment of thousands of dollars after a local business, who asked to remain anonymous, stepped in and generously offered to loan her the money.

Ms Glennon works up to 30 hours a week in hospitality, and said in her 15 years living in Cairns she had never been in this situation before April, when her tenancy at her last home ended due to the owners moving back in.

“I’ve never in my life pictured myself ending up in this situation. I have a good rental history and I’ve never finished a lease without having found somewhere else,” she said.

“I had to put all my furniture into a storage unit and my clothes are in my car.

“Crashing at friends’ places isn’t something you can do for long, so if [the business] hadn’t helped me, I honestly don’t know where I would be now.

“There’s a waiting list of thousands of people for social housing, and I was starting to wonder if I should get a site at a caravan park so I could sleep in my car, or if I should buy a tent.

“I found myself many times just sitting in my car crying.”

Ms Glennon said she was ‘lost for words’ when the business offered to help her.

“I honestly don’t know how I can express my gratitude. I’m one of the lucky ones, because I know there are lots of other people who are in the same situation and won’t be able to come up with that upfront payment,” she said.

“Some places I applied for said they had up to 60 applicants.”

Rental crisis set to continue

Freeman’s Real Estate Principal Jade Kilpatrick predicts the rental crisis will continue unabated for many more months as southerners sell their homes in Victoria and New South Wales and migrate to Cairns.

“Some people are paying up to two years’ rent in advance to secure a place,” she said.

“Owners are picking those with good references, employment, less people, and no pets.

“Even in a normal market that’s what happens, but now they have more to choose from with a minimum of eight applications per property.”

Ms Kilpatrick said she predicted renters would increasingly be pushed out into the suburbs as cashed-up southerners bought and moved into properties in the city, following a familiar pattern of gentrification seen in other cities.

“I don’t think it’s slowing down. I’m still getting properties sold within a week to two weeks, and the majority are to southern buyers,” she said.

“We’re sitting at about eight properties advertised compared to about 31 just before COVID-19.

“Springfield Crescent in the lower Whitfield area is the most sought-after area for selling properties at the moment. We sell a Springfield Crescent property within a couple of days.

“They’re just going to start renovating those old houses, starting to build duplexes and townhouses and the renters will get pushed out of town.”

She said a lot of southerners had also bought blocks of land and were building homes in Edmonton, Trinity Beach and Trinity Park with builds booked for the next three years.

“When you get the first homebuyers grant you are required to live in the property for six months at least, but then people might start leaving Cairns, which will open the market back up again,” she said.

“They might live in it for a year and say ‘Cairns is too hot’ and then go back down south, especially once COVID-19 is brought under control with vaccines, and then hopefully we can have some breathing space.

“However, usually a boom will go for at least three years, so there might be a slight dip, but I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the low rental and sale prices we once had.

“The government has to do something, there has to be a stimulus in development, more building, more housing, especially if they want to encourage thousands more workers to come to Cairns.

“We don’t have anywhere for them to live. Something has to be done.”

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