NO VACANCIES: Calls to fix rental woes after record low data

Bundaberg's rental market forecast predicts no relief in sight after the region has experienced record low vacancy rates.

Data presented by the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) for the previous quarter shows Bundaberg has one of the state's tightest rental markets with a vacancy rate of 0.4%.

Corporate affairs manager Olivier Björksäter-Bleylock said REIQ considers anything below 2.4% to be an extremely tight market.

"For the Bundaberg region really tight vacancies is not unfamiliar territory because vacancies have been what we would classify as tight since June 2017," Mr Björksäter-Bleylock said.

"It's been a struggle for almost a year and in November last year it dropped to 0.3% which is the lowest Bundaberg has ever recorded for rental vacancies."

In fact the region has not experienced a fall this low since the floods in 2013 which saw a similar vacancy rate, indicating just how challenging it is to find a home in the current climate

While tenants have struggled to step into the local rental market for some time, REIQ's data shows vacancy rates have fallen month-on-month since COVID-19 first hit the region in March last year.

"Part of this can be attributed to the pandemic as there's been a lot of uncertainty around work opportunities and the future so a lot of people have decided to stay put when you would normally see people shifting around," Mr Björksäter-Bleylock said.

"Another reason is those that were directly impacted by COVID-19 were permitted to renegotiate their rent, were able to stay longer and they are still protected right up until March this year.

"Interstate and international expats have also returned that may own a property in the Bundaberg region that has been used as a rental, but now they may have had to move back in putting more tenants into the market and taking stock out."

With 36% of the state renting equating to about 1.2 million people, Queensland has the highest number of renters than any other state in the country.

As the ongoing struggle of supply and demand continues the forecast indicates the pressure on Bundaberg's rental market and reliance on investors to provide accommodation is set to continue.

"Unfortunately we don't see any change really happening this year in the market - it's going to remain relatively tight," Mr Björksäter-Bleylock said.

"About 90% of owners are the regular mum and dad investors who have purchased one property as a means to securing their own financial future for their family.

"The social housing strategy hasn't been able to keep up with demand either and a certain percentage of people in social housing each year are transferring over to private renting and there's just not the stock available."

Despite the bleak prediction REIQ is calling on the State Government to create incentives that enable people to invest in more properties.

The Australian Capital Territory fazed stamp duty eight years ago and replaced it with a land-based tax system.

And now with N.S.W looking to follow suit REIQ are campaigning to have a similar and fairer system in Queensland.

"(The Queensland) Treasury found in their own research last year that stamp duty is the biggest inhibitor for why people don't sell and why people are staying longer in their properties," Mr Björksäter-Bleylock said.

"There's around 50,000 properties throughout Queensland every year that would be available on the market as either a rental property or a property being sold, had stamp duty been abolished.

"It's one of the most archaic taxes that we have in this country and if N. S. W can look into this and consider the transition, why can't Queensland?"

In addition REIQ is also pushing for established housing purchases to receive the first home buyer's grant to open up the market so it caters to more price points.

"If the first home buyer's grant was opened up to established housing, you could go and look at homes valued around the $300,000 range and that may be more within your price range to transition from a renter to home owner," Mr Björksäter-Bleylock said.

"With such historic interest rates at the moment it would mean that you could be spending less servicing a mortgage as a home owner than you would be renting.

"The one thing that is happening with these really tight vacancies and is evident in Bundaberg is that rental prices are being artificially pushed up because of market conditions but once more rental stock hits the market prices will start to come back down.

A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Housing said the Queensland Government is pursuing a range of initiatives to increase the stock of social and affordable homes across the state.

"Through the Housing Construction Jobs Program (HCJP), we are building more than 5500 social and affordable homes across Queensland between 2017 and 2027," the spokesman said.

"This includes an investment of $25 million to complete 56 new social homes in the Wide Bay Burnett region by 2022 - 14 of which have already been completed.

"Building on the success of the HCJP, we launched the Works For Tradies initiative in June 2020 (which) across Queensland will support the jobs of about 240 construction workers and see the commencement of an additional 215 homes by the end of 2021 with 24 of those in Wide Bay."

The spokesman said the State Government takes a person-centred approach to housing needs and provides options to assist Queenslanders in accessing sustainable housing.

"The Department provides various forms of assistance including Bond Loans, Rental Grants and head-leasing services to support Queenslanders experiencing housing stress to maintain tenancies in the private rental market," he said.

"We encourage anyone experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness to immediately contact their nearest Housing Service Centre (HSC) for support."

If you require housing assistance the Bundaberg HSC site is at 16 Quay St and you can phone 1800 809 835 or 4331 7900.


REIQ's tips for Bundaberg tenants looking to find a home:

  • Widen your search to include more suburbs. While this may mean more travel time, it may also prove to be more affordable.
  • Rent a share house with one or two flat mates or rent a room in someone else's house temporarily.
  • Contact holiday home and Airbnb listings to see if the landlord would consider a fixed-term lease for six to 12 months.
  • Build a positive relationship with your property manager and explain the urgency of your needs and what you're looking for in a rental. They may contact you directly with properties that suit your specific needs if they don't reach the market.