Rental prices are putting the squeeze on struggling families across the Moreton Bay Region, according to local charities.
They say the cost of living is a key issue in the lead-up to this month’s Federal election and a lack of affordable housing is having the biggest impact on people’s budgets.
Caboolture Community Action (CCA) president and client services manager Sharin Greeves says the number of people seeking food support has skyrocketed in the past few months.
The charity provides practical outreach and support for people experiencing extreme hardship, homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness, relying on support from local Lions clubs, community donations, income from its op shop and sausage sizzles to fund its programs.
Sharin says CCA helps about 25,000 visitors a year, but since Christmas has already seen 3000 more than usual.
“It’s very difficult and homelessness is expanding,” she says.
“Mental health is really over the top and it’s very difficult to find work – when people lose their tenancies they tend to lose their job as well.”
Salvation Army Pine Rivers Corps Lieutenant Danielle Starr agrees.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” she says.
“There’s not enough housing and on top of that for those that are in housing, it’s just getting so costly but there’s no alternative.
“They get stuck and end up staying in housing they can’t afford.
“And that influences mental health and addiction.”
Deception Bay Neighbourhood Centre director Caroline Cuckson says the COVID pandemic and February’s disastrous weather have pushed people over the edge.
“We’re seeing a lot of new people coming to the centre who can no longer pay their rent,” Caroline explains.
“There are more people coming into the Bay who are buying houses to live in them, so the cost of rent is going up (as available housing dwindles).
“We’re seeing a lot of transiency, with people moving around and living in their cars.”
ADRA Community Care Centre Pine Rivers project manager John Taylor says when the charity started three years ago, they gave out about 17 food parcels every week.
Now, they average between 120 and 150 parcels a week – and just after Christmas handed out 174.
“Some of the stories you hear are very scary,” John says.
“We have people crying in their cars and we bring them in and do the best we can.”
John says COVID-19-induced unemployment, as well as domestic violence have contributed to the growing need, with ADRA relying on donations from the congregation of the Pine Rivers Adventist Church, income from an onsite op shop and support from the local Lions club.
“We also ask the people we’re helping for a $15 donation towards the cost,” he says.
Dickson Greens candidate Vinnie Batten says the party plans to tackle the cost-of-living crisis by delivering universal free childcare, and bringing dental and mental health into Medicare to put money back into peoples’ pockets.
“The Greens would legislate an increase in the minimum wage (set to 60 percent of the median wage) and close the wage gap by raising wages in sectors dominated by women like nursing and teaching,” he says.
“Most importantly, we’ll bring down the cost of housing by building one million affordable homes across the country over 20 years, including 875,000 public and community homes, getting rid of tax breaks for big investors who own more than one investment property and capping rent increases.”
Dickson Independent candidate Alan Buchbach says combatting the rising cost of living relies on reducing tax and compliance costs to ease the burden on businesses, reduced energy costs; and wage growth.
“To achieve real wage growth, the economy must grow faster than the potential supply of labour,” Alan says.
“As the economy grows, the demand for labour increases.
“If the supply is constrained then the price of labour must increase, ie real wage growth.”
He says an anticipated recession will mean the economy is expected to average zero growth until at least mid-2024 and the population should be controlled to achieve that.
“Australia has an excellent and detailed census, so we have very good estimates of population growth (births and deaths),” he says.
“The only remaining factor is immigration, which we can control.
“We must hold immigration to zero through that same period in order for there to be any chance of real (non-inflationary) growth in wages.”
Moreton Daily contacted Dickson Liberal Democratic Party candidate Lloyd Russell, LNP candidate Peter Dutton, Independent Thor Prohaska, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party candidate Tamera Gibson, the United Australia Party’s Alina Ward and the ALP’s Ali France for their policies but di d not receive a response prior to publication.