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Stress levels through roof

TOUGH TIMES: Jess Groves looks out at Gympie homes perched up high overlooking Calton Hill. Gympie has ranked the highest in terms of housing stress as residents struggle to stay afloat. Photo: Renee Pilcher.
TOUGH TIMES: Jess Groves looks out at Gympie homes perched up high overlooking Calton Hill. Gympie has ranked the highest in terms of housing stress as residents struggle to stay afloat. Photo: Renee Pilcher.

YOUNG Gympie people are going without food to pay rent, and the region now has the highest proportion of households in the state under housing and mortgage stress, a housing affordability lobby group said yesterday.

Modelling commissioned by Australians for Affordable Housing revealed almost half of Gympie's renters were under rent stress (the second worst in the state), a result disputed by Gympie Regional Council and some local charity and housing groups yesterday.

St Vincent de Pauls and the Community Action Housing Service said Gympie's housing and rental costs were far lower than many other cities and regional centres, including the Fraser and Gold Coasts, which came a close second and third to Gympie (see table P3).

Almost 1800 renting households in the Gympie region were under private rent stress, the AAH said. Of more than 3700 homeowners (19%), a total of 1557 homeowners (27%) had mortgages.

AAH campaign manager Sarah Toohey said when low income households spent more than 30% of their income on housing costs they were officially in housing stress.

"This means they have little left over to cover other costs like food, transport, bills or money for emergencies," she said. The high number of low income families moving into the Gympie region looking for more affordable housing was most likely responsible for the figures, she said.

Gympie's CAHS manager, Michelle Hine, said the region's high unemployment could be the reason so many people were feeling housing and rent stress.

"While generally the cost of renting in Gympie is lower than other areas in Queensland we believe that these figures may be reflecting the high unemployment rate in the area and the fact that a large majority of residents are either on a low income or are receiving Centrelink payments," she said.

"With a high proportion of Gympie residents falling into the lower socio economic bracket, it's likely that they would be paying more than 30% of their income in the private rental market therefore placing these households in housing stress."

St Vincent de Paul Gympie president Ian Laherty said rentals in Gympie were far cheaper than many other areas. But he also said the demand for social housing in Gympie was so high there was a waiting list of six to eight years.

Mayor Ron Dyne blamed the upcoming elections, saying lobby groups like the AAH were "positioning themselves to have the argument" about housing affordability.

Homes in Gympie were up to $300 a week cheaper to rent than many areas and $150-$250,000 cheaper to buy, he said.

Community Action Youth Services youth worker David Allard deals with housing crises for people under 25, and said there were definitely some young Gympie people going without food in order to meet the rent. The AAH figures were no surprise to him.

"Just the other day I spent three hours talking to real estate agents trying to find something appropriate and affordable for a young bloke and his son," he said.

Top four highest housing stress

Gympie

19% (housing), 27% (mortgage), 45% (rent)

Fraser Coast

19% (housing), 24% (mortgage), 46% (rent)

Gold Coast

19% (housing), 18% (mortgage), 38% (rent)

Logan

19% (housing), 18% (mortgage), 38% (rent)

Topics:  cost of living

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