In ordinary times, this picture would show your average Brisbane living room – but that’s all changed thanks to a crisis engulfing Queensland.
A homeless single mother-of-three is fed up with Queensland’s housing shortage after being unable to find a place to live for the past 12 months following 300 rejections.
Abbey*, who did not want to give her real name, has been sleeping in her parents’ garage for the better part of a year.
Her kids, aged 12, eight and five, all sleep on a single air mattress in the living room.
“It means I’m breaking the law, I’m illegally there as I’m not on the lease,” the 34-year-old told news.com.au.
Abbey used to live in a place that cost $390 a week, before the owners sold the place last year. She’s been homeless ever since.
Even though the Brisbane woman could afford to pay a year upfront for a rental place, she applied to more than 300 rental vacancies but couldn’t find anywhere that would accept her.
To make matters worse, she was then scammed out of her life savings to the tune of $28,000, leaving her with even fewer options.
“My life’s sh*t,” Abbey said.
“I have three kids, escaped a relationship, was made homeless then was stolen from. I can’t catch a break.”
It comes as Queensland, particularly in the state’s southeast, is experiencing a rental crisis leaving thousands with nowhere to go.
This is an issue being felt across Australia, with housing shortages cropping up in regional areas as city-slickers buy houses amid the Covid-19 pandemic, driving up prices and putting them out of reach for locals.
Abbey has made more than 300 applications to rental vacancies in Brisbane in the past year.
Despite a good rental record and enough to pay for a year in advance, she was constantly turned down by landlords.
“I gave up applying about four months ago, it was doing my head in mentally,” the mum said.
“The houses would be gone before the inspection.
“As soon as they were listed they were taken down.”
With Abbey’s eldest child on the cusp of entering high school, she is particularly worried.
“I’m meant to be enrolling my oldest into high school. I don’t know what to do. They (the school) need catchment areas, I don’t know where I’m going to be.”
Abbey works in the events industry and receives Centrelink’s single parent payment, earning $750 a week in total.
“I’d get letters saying ‘is this the maximum you’re willing to spend?” she recalled whenever she made a rent application.
As she couldn’t push her price any higher, she would miss out on securing the property.
The single mum used to have $28,000 in life savings.
However, she was tricked into giving it all away.
Six months ago, a person she knew well wanted to start a business venture together and convinced her to hand over all her money.
She never heard from the person again.
“It’s just awful,” she said. “It’s ruined my life.”
Abbey has applied for social housing, believing she would qualify because of her desperate circumstances.
Under the National Rental Affordability Scheme, her income as a sole parent with three children must not exceed $90,558 a year.
As her income is around $39,000 a year, she is well below that threshold.
Despite that, her application was rejected twice and she doesn’t know why.
“It makes me feel like a terrible parent because I can’t get a house because I’m too good for housing commission, but not good enough for real estates,” she said.
News.com.au reached out to the Queensland Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy who said they were “unable to comment on individual cases due to privacy laws”.
“Eligibility for social housing is determined by the individual needs of applicants, taking into account the person or family’s circumstances, their wellbeing, financial status and their ability to independently sustain a tenancy.”
A total of 1,344 households were approved for social housing in the Brisbane LGA in the 2020-21 financial year.
*Name withheld over privacy concerns
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