Marian Reeves is living in a tent in northern Victoria after flooding made the house she rents uninhabitable.
- A Shepparton real estate agent says flood damage has increased demand for rental properties in the area
- Goulburn Valley Health fears flood damage will make it more difficult for new staff to find accommodation at its understaffed Shepparton hospital
- A housing service appeals to the sector to provide temporary accommodation solutions for the aftermath of natural disasters
Knowing how tight the rental market is in Greater Shepparton, Ms Reeves is planning a fresh start between the states.
“We won’t be able to find anywhere again because there are thousands of us who are homeless now,” she said.
“All houses that need to be repaired can take months. Some can even take years.
“We decided to go back to South Australia, but the fact is we don’t have the money to do it.”
Ms Reeves’ landlord has issued a departure notice, giving her family of five 14 days to collect any belongings they can collect from their Mooroopna home.
For now, they are camping at a family member’s property in the nearby town of Katamatite.
But rain and thunderstorms make a bad situation worse.
“We woke up this morning to ankle deep in water, so we have to try and find another place to move,” she said.
Temporary housing shortage
Advocacy groups and homeless services say damage from flooding in area Victoria will worsen its housing crisis.
After decades of underinvestment in affordable and social housing, Michael Oerlemans, North Central Regional Director for Anglicare Victoria, said the floods had exacerbated the problems.
“We know there are a number of people who are going to be entering homelessness for the first time,” he said.
“There will also be people who will live in substandard housing.”
Oerlemans said he hopes the federal government’s first budget will fix long-standing housing problems and increase its housing assistance.
The head of a Bendigo-based housing and homelessness service said the flooding could have a “terrifying” impact on already vulnerable Victorians.
Haven, Home, Safe general manager Trudi Ray said it was too early to know the extent of the natural disaster’s impact on the availability of rental properties.
“In regional Victoria, the state government is investing $1.25 billion in housing, but the problem we have is that we already have supply pressures,” she said.
“The very limited supply we have will be taken over.”
Ms Ray said the sector needed to consider long-term plans on how to deal with the impact of climate damage on housing.
“We need to think about investing in more temporary life options following disasters,” she said.
Hospital worries about staff accommodation
Goulburn Valley Health is one of the largest employers in the Shepparton area and with an underlying vacancy rate of around 15% it is trying to attract new staff.
Chief executive Matt Sharp fears finding accommodation for staff coming in from interstate and overseas could be a bigger problem after the floods.
“Housing was already a big deal for this city and this neighborhood,” he said.
Mr Sharp is also worried about existing staff whose homes are damaged by the floods.
“[I’m concerned about] what it will mean for them from a wellness and health perspective,” he said.
“But also what it might mean for them to be able to come to work and when they’re ready to come. [back] work.”
Tenants desperate to find new homes
Real estate business owner Rocky Gagliardi said existing low occupancy rates in Shepparton and Mooroopna would make it harder for those displaced by the floods to find new homes to rent.
“We’ve already had a lot of tenants looking for new homes – not just our tenants but tenants from everywhere,” he said.
Gagliardi said long-term tenants of flood-damaged properties may be surprised by current rental prices.
“A lot of tenants who have been renting for a long time probably haven’t felt the rent hike that’s happened in the last 12 to 18 months,” he said.
For now, Mrs. Reeves is spending all of her time, energy and money cleaning up a house she no longer lives in.
“I have to travel 160 kilometers every day right now just to clean an empty house and live in a tent,” she said.
“It’s not fair and I know many others feel the same – I’m not the only one lost.”