AT THE COALFACE: Brunswick Community Care Council worker Michele Grant says landlords are ripping off vulnerable people by charging huge rents for illegal dwellings.
AT THE COALFACE: Brunswick Community Care Council worker Michele Grant says landlords are ripping off vulnerable people by charging huge rents for illegal dwellings. Kate O’Neill

Byron community worker attacks rents rip-off

GREEDY landlords are charging exorbitant rents for illegal, 'substandard hovels' in the Byron Shire, and tenants are too scared to complain for fear they may be kicked out.

The council turns a blind eye to the problem because the housing crisis means there is nowhere else for people to go.

That's according to community worker Michele Grant, who deals with the human face of Byron Shire's affordable housing crisis through her work with the Brunswick Community Care Council.

“There is an idea that illegal dwellings are providing affordable housing, but the truth is the illegal places are just as expensive,” Ms Grant said.

Gloomy sheds and garages that lack basic amenities are being let for more than $200 a week, while parking a caravan in a suburban backyard can cost $150.

Because it is an illegal arrangement, tenants cannot claim the Centrelink rent assistance they would be entitled to.

One of the most vulnerable groups are single women over 55, who have struggled to raise a family on welfare, have no accumulated wealth, and are surviving on a pension.

“Older women in particular don't feel terribly brave and won't speak out,” Ms Grant said.

Mayor Jan Barham said the council was in a difficult position, because cracking down on illegal dwellings could leave many people homeless and force them out of their own community.

The council's affordable housing project would provide some relief, but more help from the State Government was needed, Cr Barham said.

A report on illegal dwellings will go before the council in February.



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