Eliza Phillips* has laid bare the emotional toll of having applied for more than 300 homes in the past two months.
Since finding out her lease would not be renewed in June, the 34-year-old disability pensioner has faced a nightmare of rent bidding, sleeping in her car, and is now in psychiatric care.
Finding shelter in South Australia during the current housing crisis was nothing short of “impossible”, she told 7NEWS.com.au.
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Phillips ordeal began when she was told that her lease on her home was not going to be renewed due to the landlord’s family members moving in instead.
She spent weeks going to open inspections and applying for properties, only to be told by real estate agents that her only hope lay in bidding against the weekly rent being offered by other prospective tenants.
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In one call, she was asked to offer another $150 more than the advertised price for a one-bedroom property. That was because another prospective tenant had already offered $100 more.
Phillips is on a disability pension after breaking her neck some time ago.
“I can’t,” she told the agent. “That would take up my entire pension.”
In July, she became homeless.
“What am I meant to do,” Phillips asked. “We don’t live in a Third World country, but it feels that way.”
“I’ve offered $15 more, and they say that’s not going to do anything.”
Eliza Pedley has applied to more than 300 homes. Credit: 7NEWS/AAP
Phillips has been in contact with all the services available for those struggling in the current housing crisis, but said she didn’t feel like she was a priority. And the recommendations she has received were also well out of her price range.
At one hotel room recommended to her by Housing SA, she said the rent was $900 for one week.
“They were going to charge more (in a week) than what I was getting (on the pension) a fortnight,” Phillips said.
She’s also looked at hotels and caravan parks, ranging between $600 and $900 a week.
“They’re turning people away,” she said.
For a while, she and her two cats were sleeping in her car.
“I was sleeping sitting up — I had to put my neck brace on.”
Unsurprisingly, the situation has also impacted Phillips’ mental health, and she has made calls to emergency services for help.
In July, Phillips was admitted to a psychiatric ward.
Her cats are now in emergency care. She can still see the irony, however.
“My cats are in emergency accommodation, but I haven’t been able to access any,” Phillips said.
Housing is a human right
Phillips said she had worked since graduating from high school, right up until she was injured.
She takes pride in her past work experience in multiple jobs and in being independent.
“I’ve worked 18-hour days and (I’ve worked) 12-hour night shifts,” she said.
Housing is a human right, she said, and it shouldn’t be this hard.
While in hospital, NDIS support workers have inspected properties for her.
“A lot of (real estate agents) within 24 to 48 hours send a rejection letter,” she said.
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Phillips came close to securing a home, but said SA Housing labelled the property “too expensive” and would not cover her bond and a week of rent.
SA Housing responded to the claim, saying “our focus is connecting people with the right housing support for them, and staff are working closely with Ms Phillips to assist her and to ensure the most appropriate solution for her needs”.
“There are eligibility criteria for the Private Rental Assistance Program, and we need to be sure that rent is affordable for any customer applying for assistance.”
Not a unique story
Support organisation SYC said stories like Phillips were sadly becoming more common.
“The current rental market in South Australia is one of the tightest in the country with vacancy rates at less than one per cent,” SYC chief operating officer for community services Joe Aylward told 7NEWS.com.au.
“The solution is multifaceted and requires all sectors of government, the not-for-profit sector and industry to work together collaboratively.”
Phillips story “echoes the stories we hear from people contacting SYC’s tenancy advice service”, Aylward said.
The rental market was also particularly challenging for people like Phillips on a fixed income, like the disability pension, he said.
People on this sort of income simply don’t have the capacity to compete in a market where rent-bidding is rife.
“It is gruelling to receive rejection after rejection, day in, day out, simply to secure a roof over their heads,” Aylward said.
“This adds hugely to people’s stress and vulnerabilities.”
He also said people should not be forced to skip meals, medicine and other essentials to retain a home.
People like Phillips will continue to experience this hardship “until there is a fundamental increase in the supply of properties available for rent and/or purchase”, Aylward said.
He urged people to report rent bidding to avenues such as the Office of Consumer and Business Services.
If you need help
The Private Rental Assistance Program’s eligibility criteria have been expanded, a spokesperson for SA Housing told 7NEWS.com.au.
The weekly rent limit has been increased from $450 to $600, and the assets limit has been increased from $5000 to $62,000 per household.
Two weeks’ rent can now be covered by rent in advance payments, and the rent in arrears payments have also been increased, provided eligibility criteria are met.
Approximately $11 million is spent per annum on emergency motel accommodation, with approximately 200 people or families accommodated on any given night, the spokesperson said.
“This is in addition to around $75 million per annum for Specialist Homelessness Services that help people avoid becoming homeless and provide support if they have lost their home,” they said.
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