IT'S a competition no-one wants to win, but the Northern Rivers has overtaken Sydney as the tightest rental market in New South Wales.
New data from the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales showed while there's fewer homes to rent across the Sydney market, the Northern Rivers vacancy rates have plummeted to just 1.1%.
REINSW president John Cunningham, said the February 2017 REINSW Vacancy Rate Survey revealed the regional areas, Northern Rivers slipped 0.5%, while in comparison the Sydney metropolitan market down 0.2% to 1.9%.
North Coast Community Housing chief executive John McKenna, said this latest report is of huge concern for the whole region.
"The lack of affordable available rental property coupled with the shortage of social housing rental properties makes it even harder for those on the bottom incomes level to find suitable housing in the Northern Rivers and this leads to homelessness," he said.
"The coastal strip is impacted by the rental holiday market and Byron Bay heavily impacted by Airbnb and the private holiday market," he said.
"If you look at the Anglicare survey last year, there were only 54 properties in the whole of the Northern Rivers affordable for people on the lowest third of incomes and we expect that to the same or even worse when the next report comes out in April 2017."
For students at Southern Cross University finding a property to rent can be challenging.
A SCU spokesman said the Lismore student association advises that finding rental properties is tight, particularly at the start of session.
"Anecdotally, students are saying prices are going up and they're missing out," the spokesman said.
"On campus accommodation is provided through Campus Living Villages and currently vacancies are available."
Meanwhile in other regions, Albury was down 0.8% at 3.2%, the South Coast fell 0.2% at 2.1% and Coffs Harbour rose 1.1 per cent to 3.7 per cent and Central Coast gained 0.3 per cent to 2.8 per cent.
The Hunter slipped 0.2% with a 0.7% rise in Newcastle to 2.7% offset by a fall of 0.9% at 1.6% in the rest of the region.
In the Illawarra, vacancy rates fell 0.3% at 1.1% with Wollongong falling from 2.1% to 1.1%.