For the love of… Hers
The great Australian Dream
Housing Stress – What’s the true cost of the roof over your head?
As the Community Capacity Builder at VincentCare’s early intervention and prevention to homelessness program, HomeConnect, I feel fortunate to have regular contact with some of the most vulnerable members of our community. People that access VincentCare’s support programs arrive with a primary need of housing support.
Amy is one of those people. This is her story.
Amy is a single mother with three children under the age of four and was unable to access affordable housing within close proximity to her eldest child’s kinder and to her only support, her grandmother.
Amy turns 21 next week and has no plans for her upcoming birthday due to lack of finances and limited social networks. She left school at age 15 after a long history of being bullied and was in constant transience between schools. Amy now spends her time at her grandmother’s over crowded four bedroom house in Strathmore, where she lives with her three children, brother, grandmother and grandmother’s partner.
Amy provides for her children on a single parenting benefit, without any child support. Having lost her mother at age four and not knowing her father, she grew up in the grandmother’s home and although she is very appreciative of this, she hopes to raise her children in her own home.
For the past twelve months, Amy has been actively searching for a 4 bedroom private rental property in Hume, Moreland or Moonee Valley, ideally within a twenty minute radius from Strathmore. A property with a backyard for her children to play in is part of the dream. During the time Amy has been searching, she has noticed an increase in rental prices and properties are becoming more difficult to find.
Given the current housing crisis, Amy has had to alter her initial preferences. A four bedroom home with a backyard to cater for her family is no longer a realistic goal, so much so that she is prepared to move into a two bedroom property without a backyard in areas as far as Werribee. Amy believes she is still not able to afford the cheapest house at $290 per week.
Amy suggests things will be tight for her even in the cheapest property; as the cost of petrol will increase as she will travel to Strathmore to her child’s kinder and to visit her grandmother. Food will be scarce due to the bulk of her income going towards rent; therefore she will be more reliant on services for material aid. There will be no disposable income and the rare treats such as a haircut or new piece of clothing will no longer be an option.
There is extra pressure for Amy to find a property as her grandmother is planning to downsize and will be selling the house in which they currently live. Amy was linked with a caseworker in the Youth Team of the HomeConnect program at VincentCare and is receiving assistance with property searching.
Although Amy speaks optimistically of her future, she believes it is unachievable in the current housing climate to ever own her own home. She finds the barriers such as housing stress, limited financial income and her family status make this an unrealistic goal.
Sadly experiences like Amy’s are all too common for participants of VincentCare, there is a harsh reality that affordable and suitable housing isn’t accessible for all members of our community – particularly our most vulnerable. With the pressures of being a single mother on a limited income, the added stress of housing can make it almost impossible to achieve the “Great Australian Dream”.
*Originally published by Anna Owens as a contributor for ABC Open Drum