Single mums left homeless
TWO three-bedroom units in Ballina sat empty for nearly six months after being bought by Housing NSW and the pair of battling solo mothers living in them were told to move out.
In a cruel irony, Gabi Enright and her son Michael, then 16, and Marcia Waddell and son Luke, then 12, were effectively made homeless when Housing NSW put the property in the hands of North Coast Community Housing Company (NCCHC).
The company authorised a Ballina real estate agency to ensure the units were vacated when the women's tenancy agreements ran out.
John McKenna, general manager of NCCHC, said the accommodation that it manages is given to those in greatest need.
“We currently have 400 applicants on our waiting list, all of them in the high needs category,” he said.
Regarding the long time the units remained empty, Mr McKenna said only minor works had been needed.
He acknowledged that such a situation was far from ideal. However, the NCCHC had addressed the problem he said.
“We have recently appointed a building and assets manager and we are aiming for a 14-day turn-around of properties,” Mr McKenna said
“Having a property empty may have been an issue in the past but it should not be an issue moving forward.”
But the women's fate points to a serious problem across the region.
Ms Enright and Ms Waddell had lived at the property with their sons and two dogs for 12 months before the sale. They are described by their then landlord as being 'very good tenants' who kept the properties clean and always paid their rent on time.
They left in March and May this year. It was the beginning of a lengthy ordeal for both women, who struggled to find alternative accommodation that was convenient to their workplaces and sons' schools, and which they could afford.
Ms Waddell said an added factor against her was her dog, a staffy named Wiz, and that a real estate agent suggested she have it destroyed to make her life easier.
She eventually found a new home in East Ballina, close to where she works but a bus journey for her son to school at Ballina High, and costing $440 a week.
Ms Enright, who says among her many references she even has one for her own dog, gave up searching for a new rental after several distressing months and is staying with a workmate.
“Rents are enormous,” said the 48-year-old, who works with the aged and disabled, 'and moving is very stressful'.
She is no longer able to have her son with her during the week, and he lives with his father's new family in East Ballina. He stays with her at weekends. She is understandably bitter.
Mr McKenna said the two women could apply to Housing NSW for help to find suitable, affordable accommodation.
“The issue is that the Tweed /Richmond region is one of the worst affected in the state, and is one of 20 areas identified by the Federal Government as needing help with job creation,” he said. “The problem is that this is a very desirable area to live in, but there is not much work and the rents are among some of the highest in the state.”