Sat. May 25th, 2024

Why Michaela’s Young Daughter Feels Like Eight Hours Away Due to the Rental Crisis Separating Families

Jamie Roberts By Jamie Roberts May21,2024
Single mum Michaela, 23, can only communicate with her eight-year-old daughter via calls and texts. The pair are separated by almost 700km and don’t know when they will be reunited.
Australia’s rental crisis has meant there are currently “no options” for the family to live together. Michaela said the pair were rejected multiple times by sharehouses, and she’s been unable to find a rental near job opportunities and schools.
According to SQM Research, a two-bedroom unit home in Sydney costs an average $730 a week to rent, with a 1.1 per cent vacancy rate.

Michaela is living and working in the NSW Hunter region until she can find a stable and suitable home to move in with her daughter, who is living eight hours away with her grandmother in the South Coast of NSW.

She recognised her daughter would be safer and more settled if the pair were apart, rather than moving her through different schools until they found a home — but it has meant the pair spent Easter apart this year.
“[Living away from my daughter] is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life,” she said.
“If I didn’t have my family … I’d be so stuck.”

Most of her pay goes to a $250 weekly rent — and she’s just been told it will increase to $280.

A fraction of the low income population can afford rentals

Data released on Tuesday from Anglicare’s annual Rental Affordability Snapshot, which examined over 4,000 rental listings in Australia, found that only 289 rentals — 0.6 per cent — were “affordable for a person earning a full-time minimum wage”.
For someone on Jobseeker, only three rentals were affordable and for Youth Allowance: zero rentals.

It suggests a “new normal” for Australians — one that forces families to choose between “food on the table or staying warm [in] winter”.

A graph that reads Surveyed 45,115 rental listings across Australia and found that:
289 rentals (0.6%) were affordable for a person earning a full-time minimum wage
89 rentals (0.2%) were affordable for a person on the Age Pension
31 rentals (0.1%) were affordable for a person on the Disability Support Pension
3 rentals, (0%) all sharehouses, were affordable for a person on JobSeeker
 0 rentals (0%) were affordable for a person on Youth Allowance.

Source: SBS

“Despite what it may seem, Australia’s rental crisis hasn’t come as a result of the pandemic or recent interest rate rises. The rental market is not broken. It was designed this way,” the report said.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, the CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, said rental costs are pushing people on Centrelink payments to the edge of poverty.
“Rents increased by more than 7 per cent on average last year and more than 640,000 low-income households are waiting for suitable homes, making it virtually impossible for someone receiving $55 a day on JobSeeker to find somewhere to live,” she said in the report.

Victorian state manager of the Salvation Army’s Moneycare service, Troy West, said Michaela’s situation is becoming more common.

A man wearing a grey polo shirt smiles at the camera.

Troy West from the Salvation Army says single parents are having to make massive sacrifices. Source: SBS

“The housing where they are moving to may not be safe or suitable for children, so as a result, what they may be doing is leaving the children with family members … to maintain employment — but at the detriment of keeping the family unit together,” West said.

“I think we’re going to see [a] continuation of mixed family dynamics moving into one single household just to try and have some housing security going forward.”

While most young people can find share houses, Michaela can’t

On several occasions, Michaela contacted various flatmate websites and Facebook groups to find suitable renters to live with — and each time, she faced an all-too-familiar rejection: ‘no kids, sorry.’
“I just feel defeated against the world,” Michaela said.

She was told she was a “perfect fit” as a housemate at first glance.

But once renters realised she was looking for both her and her daughter, they tended to go quiet — or reject her.

“The feeling of being rejected over and over again has made me feel unwanted.”

 Michaela kneels down beside her blurred out daughter who is displaying an award inside a room of other people

Living 700km away from her daughter, Michaela is unable to celebrate her successes. Source: SBS

A survey from Flatmates.com, the biggest site for advertising sharehouses, reported that only 10 per cent of the 10,300 respondents said they would be “happy” living with a flatmate under the age of 18.

As of April, 184 of the 4245 listings (about 4.3 percent) on Flatmates for Sydney share houses were listed as “properties accepting of children”.

Competing with couples on double incomes

Jenny Davidson, the CEO of the Council of Single Mothers and their Children, which provides rental assistance, said single mothers moving away from support networks due to the rental crisis has significant mental health impacts.
Michaela was one of them.
“I’ve been struggling with some depression for some time now due to all these additional factors of my whole foundation being all over the shop,” Michaela said.
Davidson said it’s not uncommon for single mothers to live under dangerous conditions with their children, entering a tight rental market without being able to prioritise security or safety.

“It’s the worst we’ve ever seen and housing has been in their [single mothers] top three issues for over a decade.”

A lady poses as she stands across a balcony smiling.

Jenny Davidson says single women are “running out of options”: with many resorting to living in their cars. Source: SBS

Single mothers also must compete against couples with double incomes in the rental market.

“Landlords have all of the power when it comes to decision-making,” Davidson said.

Single mothers just getting by

A joint study on about 7500 participants for the Mapping Social Cohesion Report by the Scanlon Foundation Research Institute last year found that two-thirds of single parents in Australia said they are at best ‘just getting along’, and one in five had gone without meals and were unable to pay their rent or mortgage.
A further 63 per cent of single parents reported feeling isolated from society sometimes or often.

Davidson said most women using the Council of Single Mothers service are spending anywhere between 50 to 70 per cent of their income on rent alone.

“In order to do that, they’re not eating, they’re not paying for medications … and all of those things have flow-on ramifications for the health of themselves and their children,” she said.
“People are running out of options. There are women ringing our services who are sleeping in cars with their children.”
For Michaela, the sacrifice of living eight hours from her daughter means she can work and study part-time, but it’s a living situation she doesn’t believe is appropriate for a child. Living in a small studio with no oven or microwave, she struggles to prepare basic meals.

“It sucks that the world is the way it is, but that there are literally no options for people like me.”

Sharing the burden

With the number of single-female parent families set to rise from 13 percent in 2016 to 14 percent by 2041 in Australia according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the demand for rentals for single parents is expected to increase.
ABS data also shows that in 2021, there were 21,255 single mothers under the age of 25 in Australia.
A Facebook group run by the Single Mothers Council allows single mothers to connect with other single parents seeking rentals, so they can apply with two incomes or join existing share houses.

“For some, being able to share a house with another single parent means you have another adult that’s present and you have sort of quasi-sibling relationships,” Davidson said.

Young mother Michaela smiling with her daughter, whose face is blurred out, on a beach

Michaela made the difficult decision to move away from her daughter in the hopes she could find a suitable rental where her daughter will be happy and safe. Source: SBS

Ms Davidson said the most important aspect for children is their social capital.

“So if families have to move because they can’t afford that area anymore or they can’t find suitable housing and the children lose those networks, that has a massive impact.”
Michaela has contacted the Council of Single Mothers and is looking to team up with fellow single parents.

“I’m hoping that I can get myself out there … and eventually get into something that’s comfortable for both of us, and then I can move [my daughter] into where I’m living. That’s the game plan.”

Jamie Roberts

By Jamie Roberts

Jamie is an award-winning investigative journalist with a focus on uncovering corruption and advocating for social justice. With over a decade of experience in the field, Jamie's work has been instrumental in bringing about positive change in various communities.

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2 thoughts on “Why Michaela’s Young Daughter Feels Like Eight Hours Away Due to the Rental Crisis Separating Families”
  1. It’s heartbreaking to read about Michaela and her daughter being separated by the rental crisis. As a single mother myself, I can only imagine the pain she must be feeling. The government needs to do more to address the housing affordability issue and ensure families can stay together.

  2. As a single mom myself, it breaks my heart to hear about Michaela and her daughter being separated by the rental crisis. It’s unacceptable that families are torn apart due to unaffordable housing. This situation highlights the urgent need for more support and affordable housing options for families in need.

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