By Rebecca Peppiatt
Camellia Creswell wakes up every single morning not knowing if she and her three children will soon be living on the streets.
Like thousands of others in the same situation, the Forrestfield single mum is facing eviction from her current rental property as it is up for sale and finding a new home is almost impossible in the midst of a debilitating rental crisis.
Recently rejected from her 13th rental application, Ms Creswell has tried every avenue to secure a home, including applying for emergency housing where she was told the wait will be a minimum of 18 months.
“Transitional housing is full, I’ve been in contact with Anglicare, the Red Cross and St Vincent de Paul and they’ve got nothing,” she said.
“I’ve just been trying to think of something, to be proactive and come up with a plan B.
“All I’ve been told that I can do is ring up the night before I’m homeless and ring crisis care, or crisis line and tell them that me and my boys are going to be homeless from tomorrow.
“That’s my help.”
Ms Creswell is part of a wider Perth Facebook group for single parents and said she is far from alone in her situation, with some people searching for homes “from Rockingham to Joondalup”.
Desperate to bring attention to the issue, she said she is ready to camp outside Premier Mark McGowan’s office “because no one is talking about it”.
“COVID has taken over everything,” she said.
“It’s overshadowing all the other issues we’re having in our city and I’m about ready to get a camp-out going and get something happening to get them to realise that it’s not enough for emergency housing to be 18 months wait.
“What do you do if you’re at imminent risk?
“There’s obviously not enough funding and programs for those non-for-profits that are trying to help people.
“There’s got to be more help.”
Ms Creswell has been a stay-at-home mum to her children aged 5, 9 and 13, as well as a carer to her mum who has disabilities.
She’s now studying full time to be a chef, hoping it will help her prospects of securing a better life for herself and her children, but in the meantime feels that she is being stigmatised by property owners and real estate agents when she puts in an application.
“I’m a good tenant,” she said.
“I’ve done renovations out of my own pocket on this house to try and make it look nice, to make it look respectable because I’m a house proud person.
“I’m not going to ruin my rental record or history, that’s my security for my children.
“I’m not going to put that at risk at all.”
But with so few rental properties on the market, owners can afford be picky, putting people like Ms Creswell at a distinct disadvantage.
She was even told by one real estate agent that the owner of the house she was viewing will not consider any single parents, no matter their employment status.
Stuart Cox, general manager of The Agency Group, says the effects of the COVID moratorium have played a part in creating a tough market for renters.
“There has always been a consistent supply of rentals in the past,” he said.
“However, when COVID hit the government placed a moratorium on rental price increases.
“Once this lifted, landlords who had been forced to hold off on price increases in line with inflation, had the opportunity to now lift prices in line with the market.
“Add to this that the population of WA has become pretty steady and a lot less transient during COVID it means that the rental market has been tight.”
Real estate agent Cara De Buelle from Professionals Stirling Clark in Forrestfield said an increase in sale prices is another factor that is making it a challenging time for tenants.
“Increased activity in the sales market in our area has seen many investor clients choosing to sell their investment properties, often when these properties are purchased by non-investor clients such as first home buyers leases are not renewed and therefore a high volume of tenants are forced back into the market with limited stock available to meet demand,” she said.
But she added that landlords have had it tough too.
“Generally speaking, many investor clients have seen their share of hardship in recent years,” she said.
“Many couldn’t sell due to a declining sales market and more recently couldn’t evict tenants not paying rent during covid restrictions.
“It wasn’t so long ago rents were falling and properties sat vacant for extended periods.”
Mount Helena real estate agent Joanne Le Vaux from Brookwood Realty says anyone looking to rent a property in the Hills will struggle to do so currently.
“The Hills rental market is extremely tight with significant unmet demand and has been so for months now,” she said.
“Only a handful of properties are available for rent in the Hills and though leasing is still happening, it is occurring off-market with agents already having a waiting list of potential renters.”
Her advice to tenants looking to secure a property is to ensure you have a good rental history.
“Start searching early and include a cover letter with your application,” she said.
“A tenant ledger with rent paid on time and a record of good inspections will always win over a late payer who is hit and miss with the cleaning and care of the yards.”
But Ms Creswell says her employment history and current life situation don’t look good on paper and she just needs someone to give her a chance while she recovers from her marriage break up.
“If I don’t find anywhere to live, I have no idea what I will do,” she said.
“I’ll probably end up living in a tent somewhere.
“I don’t have anywhere to go.”