Real reason why rentals are hard to get in Lismore, Casino
It's harder than ever to secure a rental property on the Northern Rivers, with demand skyrocketing in recent months.
There are reports of families being forced to live out of cars, while others are moving in with relatives or sleeping on friends' lounges.
Local social media pages have been flooded with people pleading for help to find a place to live.
It's not just low vacancy rates having an impact ‒ rents are going up as well, making many properties unaffordable.
Rents in the Richmond Valley increased by 14.3 per cent over the past year to $400 a week, Lismore rents increased by 7.5 per cent to $430, and Byron increased 7.1 per cent to $750, according to the Domain Rent Report for the December quarter.
Ash Pritchard recently moved to Lismore from Melbourne for a new job and his role as the Swans' senior men's coach.
But even though he and assistant coach Glenn Burns have been scouting for a home in the area since October, nothing is available.
"I had no idea it would be this hard," Mr Pritchard said.
"We're living in a garage and we have been for a month now, it's doing my head in.
"I just feel like I can't get settled.
"You go to the inspections and there are so many people looking at the same properties; there are 20, 30, 40 people there.
"I see families with kids there and I think, well, maybe they're more deserving (than me).
"All we can do is keep looking.
"I do get frustrated and angry … I've got strong references from Melbourne and from my work.
"The people I've spoken to about this, they're telling me it's not normal.
"Apparently a lot of people are leaving the cities to get away from COVID."
Rob Horder from PRD Northern Rivers confirmed there was an acute shortage of rentals at the moment.
He said it was not uncommon to see 20 to 30 groups of potential tenants turn up to inspect properties.
"It's being caused by a combination of things," Mr Horder said.
"Yes, some people are moving back into their (investment) properties.
"But because the market is red hot at the moment, people who had investment properties are putting them on the market to capitalise on that activity.
"And we're seeing owner occupiers buying those properties."
Mr Horder's advice for tenants was to ensure applications were fully completed, with all identification sorted.
A good resume will also make a big difference.
"Landlords have their pick of a really good bunch of would-be tenants," he said.
"People just have to keep applying … it is hard, but it's a matter of continually looking."
A local Facebook group, Lismore Property Connections, lists current rentals available in an effort to try and help locals find a place to live.
But it's getting harder.
An admin of the group recently posted: "We have an increasing number of people joining who are from out of the area and looking to move here.
"It is really important for those people to realise we have thousands looking here in the Northern Rivers already, mostly locals who are desperate for a home.
"If you are from out of town you may need to seriously reconsider your plans of moving here and renting a place. Again, there is a massive shortage."