Moss* was alone in her car on Wednesday, listening to ABC Radio Perth, when she heard a discussion about rent affordability and decided to stop by to tell her story.
“Right now I live in my car,” she told presenter Nadia Mitsopoulos.
“A month ago my landlord raised the rent by $50 a week and I have a pension,” she said.
She had paid $350 a week and told her landlord she could afford $370, but not $400.
“When I told them I couldn’t pay rent anymore, I got a notice period. This is after 12 years,” she said.
With no family to turn to and no contact with friends after back surgery that left her with chronic pain four years ago, the 70-year-old said she was struggling to find a new rental home.
“I’ve been through about 20 houses in the past two weeks and at least 30 other people have been there [going through] also. It is quite difficult.”
She said she went without food for a few days after running out of money a few days before her retirement payment.
After putting away her belongings, she was able to stay in a motel for a few days before spending two and a half weeks in the car when she called.
Listeners offer help
Moss’s story sparked a deluge of help from ABC Radio Perth listeners, and by 8:30 p.m. that evening she was in a small studio close to her old home in Stoneville, in the Perth Hills.
The next day, when it started to rain, she spoke to Nadia again to thank the listeners for their generosity and say how wonderful it had been to spend a night under a safer roof.
“It was so good not to be scared and jump at every little noise because I didn’t know who was outside the car. And it’s just so quiet and so peaceful,” she said.
It was a welcome relief to be able to rest and work on finding new, long-term housing without the pressures of living in a car.
“I started to really feel sorry for myself and feel sorry for myself, and I don’t like that, I didn’t like where my head was going,” she said.
The studio is not a permanent home, but she can stay until she has time to get up and find out what government services are available.
“It’s enough for me to have a break, to have a breather to think and discover the different places I can go for help because I have no idea,” she said.
In addition to the difficulties she faces, much of the rent application process has now gone online.
“It’s all changed. You have to apply in advance and then there’s an app and I’m not computer savvy.
“I’ve waited a month to learn more about houses because they’re constantly adding people.”
Older homeless people a growing demographic
Phuntsho Om, a doctoral student at Edith Cowan University who studies homelessness in the elderly, said that with demographics changing, stories like Moss’s would likely become more common.
She said older people can suddenly become homeless, through divorce or the death of a spouse, or like Moss, can get into trouble more slowly if social connections are lost.
“It’s poverty, higher cost of living and then a lack of social programs,” she said.
“Times are changing and everyone is so busy with their own work and family and these people lack social interaction.
Part of the solution she said was to interact with older adults so they weren’t isolated with few people to turn to when faced with potential homelessness.
Tight rental market in Perth
Michelle Rigg, managing director of Perth-based property management firm Rentwest, said that after falling 25-30 percent in recent years, rent costs were now climbing back to 2014 levels, at the end of the mining boom.
She said there were fewer houses for rent and that a low vacancy rate of 1.2 percent also put upward pressure on rents.
“We have about 15 to 20 percent of investors who have exited the market in Australia,” Ms Rigg told ABC Radio Perth.
“A normal vacancy rate — with a balance for both owners and tenants — is about 3 percent,” she said.
She said that while many low-income people depended on the private rental market, governments needed to play a bigger role in housing people who were priced out of the market.
“Unfortunately, the government has probably taken that space too short and reduced social housing rather than investing in it, which is also having an impact,” she said.
Ms Rigg said it would probably take another 18 months for the rental market in Perth to stabilize.
Moss said that while she wasn’t looking for help when she called, just someone to talk to, she was overwhelmed by the generosity offered to her and hoped the goodwill in the community could help more people in her situation. help out.
“There are a lot of people like me, if we could network something it would be so great,” she said.
“I don’t know how, but it would be so good. A lot of people would get help.”
*Moss requested not to use her full name for this article