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‘High-rise slums’ are amongst us

01 Jun 2017

‘High-rise slums’ are amongst us Image

By Sunny Liu

Behind the luxurious facade of Docklands’ high-rise apartment are some horrifying living conditions for young people.

Some of Docklands’ luxurious apartments are becoming overcrowded with up to six people squeezing into a one-bedroom apartment to save on rent.

A typical one-week’s rent for a private bedroom ranges from $250 to $400, whereas sharing one bedroom with a few other people would only cost $140-$190 per week.

Some tenants are openly advertising beds in shared rooms on flatmate-searching platforms, including Facebook group Fairy Floss and flatmates.com.au.

Docklands News found at least six places where more than two people share one bedroom in local apartments.

In a one-bedroom apartment at a residential tower in Victoria Harbour, four people sleep in two double bunks in the bedroom and another two in a bunkin the living room. The weekly rent for a bed in the bedroom is $160 and $140 for the living room.

Although it has been widely reported that CBD apartments are often overcrowded with students and workers who strive to save costs, it seems some apartments are becoming “high-rise slums”.

In some overcrowded apartments, as many as six people share a bathroom and the communal living space has been turned into a makeshift bedroom.

It is a breach of the Building Act for tenants to sub-let one room to unrelated people and most residential lease agreements do not allow sub-letting. When multiple unrelated people reside in one shared room, the property owner must apply for the property to become a rooming house.

According to the City of Melbourne, there is only one registered rooming house in Docklands.

A City of Melbourne spokesperson told Docklands News the council had received five complaints regarding potential unregistered rooming houses in Docklands.

However, the Building Act does not outline a minimum floor area required for each person in residential apartments, therefore it becomes difficult for the council and building owners’ corporations to regulate overcrowded apartments.

On April 26, the State Government introduced the Rooming House Operators Act 2016 in a major crackdown on Victoria’s illegal rooming house operators.

Anyone who owns, leases or manages a rooming house now has to be licensed and pass a “fit and proper person test”, which examines the applicant’s criminal record and whether they have breached any laws related to unregistered rooming houses in the past five years.

Significant penalties now apply for anyone found guilty of operating a rooming house without a licence, including jail terms of up to two years or a maximum fine of more than $36,000 for individuals and $182,000 for owners’ corporations.

Also, an online register of licensed rooming house operators will help renters find a legitimate licensed operator.

Minister for Consumer Affairs, Mariene Kairouz, said the new legislation would protect tenants’ safety and welfare.

“Everyone deserves to be safe and secure in their homes. This legislation will make sure rooming house operators are up to scratch when it comes to running properties that are home to some of our most vulnerable Victorians,” Ms Kairouz said.

“It will improve professionalism and ensure operators meet their legal obligations as well as standards we expect of them as a community.”

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