Advertisement for single bed in a hallway shows just how dire Australia’s housing crisis has become
Australia’s housing crisis has again been thrown into the spotlight after an advertisement for a single bed in a hallway was posted on Gumtree.
The post advertised the single bed in a two-bedroom North Hobart house, which is already occupied by a couple and two boys, for $75 a week.
“We are looking for someone who is interested to stay in the hall and a single bed is there for use,” stated the advertisement, which has since been taken down.
Affordable housing advocates have warned that the ad is indicative of a larger housing crisis forcing people to live in overcrowded dwellings.
University of New South Wales’ industrial design program director Dr Christian Tietz said ads for overcrowded houses can be found across Australia.
“For $75 a week that’s quite cheap. In Sydney it costs $150 and up a week to share a room with someone,” he told The New Daily.
“I would say that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 people living in overcrowded housing, just in Sydney. Across the country I don’t know. It’s very hard to get an accurate figure.”
The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines overcrowding as ‘living in a dwelling which requires four or more extra bedrooms to accommodate the people who usually live there’.
Overcrowded? You’re actually homeless
While the common perception is that overcrowding mainly affects international students looking to stay close to universities, Council to Homeless Persons policy manager Kate Colvin said it’s mainly families feeling the effects.
“That kind of informal arrangement is becoming more and more common,” she said.
“It’s counted as a form of homelessness, and it’s on the rise. The ABS census data shows that severe overcrowding increased by 10,000 people between 2011 and 2016.”
“The figures from the census shows that it’s 34 per cent single-family households, 49 per cent multiple families and only 16 per cent house groups.”
It’s not just rooms that people are sharing either, Tenants Union of NSW senior policy adviser Leo Patterson Ross said.
“It’s called hot bedding, and you get the bed from 6am to 10pm and then you have to clear out,” he said. “They clean the sheets and then someone else comes in.”
“We’ve seen things like four people in a room over three rooms and that’s in a two-bedroom apartment and a lounge room. We’ve seen conversions of balconies, so one person is living on a balcony.”
Not only does living in overcrowded dwellings raise questions around safety, security and hygiene, it also affects people’s mental health, Ms Colvin said.
“There was a UK study which found that 77 per cent of people living in overcrowded dwellings said it harmed their family relationships, and 66 per cent said they had depression and anxiety as a result,” Ms Colvin said.
“A single family squished into a space, or multiple family households where you have housing that’s so crowded you have a family group sleeping in one room, that just means adults don’t have privacy and children are exposed to adult behaviour they’re not meant to be exposed to.”
Affordability the key
University of Sydney urban planning professor Nicole Gurran said housing affordability sits at the heart of the overcrowding problem.
“Anyone who finds it difficult to afford a private rental unit is forced into this hidden sector of the housing market, because of the chronic undersupply of affordable housing. That’s a critical issue,” Professor Gurran told The New Daily.
“In terms of international students, you could address the issue by regulating the student housing sector, which universities could take a lead on and then the local government would be able to enforce standards.”