Victorians living in share housing highly impacted by COVID-19, new survey finds

People living in share houses in Victoria have suffered significant socio-economic shocks due to the current pandemic, according to a new survey.

The research shows 74 per cent have experienced job losses, one in five skipped meals to afford necessities and around 50 per cent reported reduced mental health.

The survey, conducted in June, includes data from a total of 1052 respondents living in share houses in Victoria, with 80 per cent of the respondents living in Greater Melbourne and 20 per cent living in regional Victoria.

Lead researcher and affordable housing expert Dr Kate Raynor said the data indicates people living in share houses are a particularly vulnerable demographic with 82 per cent under the age of 35, 50 per cent of them in non-permanent jobs and one in five of them being visa holders.

“The vulnerabilities of this demographic are under-recognised. Unlike low income renters in the social housing system, members of share houses receive limited housing support and little tenure security,” Dr Raynor said.

Findings from the survey show that people living in share houses generally reported a lack of personal savings and employment security to begin with.

In addition to suffering significant job losses and a reduction in mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic, the survey found that one in five of them could not pay rent or mortgage on time and about 50 per cent reported that their financial situation had become worse.

Dr Raynor said coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting everyone but those who are young, casually employed and/or visa holders are likely to be suffering the most during the pandemic and, potentially, well into the future unless the government takes action.

“More resources and education should target vulnerable demographics like international students and visa holders as they are less likely to know or understand the Australian housing system and their rental rights,” Dr Raynor said.

Co-author of the research and applied microeconomics researcher Dr Laura Panza said people living in share houses are financially vulnerable and definitely need support to be stable during and after the shock of the pandemic.

“The first step is recognising this demographic’s financial difficulties. In the current scenario, substantially raising the rate of JobSeeker payments would greatly improve the resilience of individuals attempting to sustain their homes in the context of rising unemployment,” Dr Panza said.

The survey report is part of research projects funded under the Affordable Housing Hallmark initiative led by University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning.

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