Thursday, May 12 2022

Some refugee families have been living in Perth hotels for more than six weeks as they struggle to find accommodation in a fiercely competitive rental market, support workers say.

The ABC understands that around 40 families, mostly from Afghanistan, live in hotel rooms in the city.

A shortage of housing, inflated rental prices, bias among landlords and a lack of rental history are among the disadvantages facing refugees looking for a home, support workers say.

“There is an incredible amount of mental distress when people don’t have safe and secure accommodation for themselves and their families,” said the Center’s acting chief executive for asylum seekers, refugees and the detainees, Esther Deng.

“If you don’t have stable, secure housing – one of the basic needs we all seek in the community and need for our day-to-day existence – it’s really hard to feel like you can settle down.”

She said the lack of housing created new challenges for refugees who wanted to enroll their children in school and find jobs.

Liza Beinart says finding accommodation is the biggest challenge when it comes to helping refugees settle in Perth.(ABC News)

From many options to none

Liza Beinart, state manager for migration at the Red Cross in WA, said there had been a “complete reversal” of the housing market, which was once able to offer clients a choice of properties.

“Now…we have to look at 50 or 60 properties online, maybe show clients five or six properties, apply for all of them, and sometimes none of them are accepted,” she said .

The Red Cross is contracted by the Home Office to run a program that helps secure long-term accommodation and helps refugees establish a new life in Australia.

Ms Beinart said the housing crisis intensified in August and September last year, coinciding with an influx of Afghan refugees arriving to escape the Taliban takeover.

While more than 5,000 Ukrainians have now been granted visas to travel to Australia to escape the Russian invasion of that country, Ms Beinart said housing remained the biggest challenge for the Red Cross in the installation of new arrivals.

“We’re housing people – it just takes longer than it normally would in a normal market,” she said.

She said some families chose to stay in hotel rooms to wait for a property that suited them.

Prices should go up

Earlier this year, the Real Estate Institute of WA predicted rental prices would rise another 10-15% in 2022 and said there was not enough stock to meet demand, in part to because of the reopening of borders to interstate and foreign migrants.

The rental vacancy rate in Perth was 1.1% in February, compared to a “market balanced” of between 2.5 and 3.5%.

The Home Office said it was covering initial rent and utility payments and providing a set of basic household items to some refugee arrivals.

“In some circumstances, entrants may stay in short-term accommodation beyond their initial arrival period (usually 28 days) due to factors such as tight rental markets in settlement locations,” said a department spokesperson.

Ms Beinart said refugees who had stayed in hotels for six weeks or more were paying at least partial rent for their rooms.

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