Family left with no option but to leave Docklands Primary School due to soaring city rents
A single mother of four, who until earlier this year had her 10-year-old son enrolled at Docklands Primary School, has shared her frustration of being forced to move to the suburbs after the rent on her apartment nearly doubled.
For more than two years up until July this year, Sophia (not her real name) was living in a Spencer St apartment building with her four children. But like so many tenants across Australia at moment amid the housing crisis, she said she risked homelessness had she not acted swiftly in finding a more affordable place to live.
She told Docklands News that after hearing about other tenants having their rents more than doubled in some cases in her building, she began the process of securing another property in February in anticipation of falling victim to a similar rent increase.
Despite having an exemplary rental record and having a good relationship with her landlord, she said she knew she had to act quickly to find another place to live, or risk homelessness for she and her children.
Thankfully, after securing a new rental property in Wantirna South for $700 per week – $50 higher than her former three-bedroom apartment – she said herself former home was listed for $1200 a week.
“I got lucky enough to have secured another property because had I decided to stay and just kind of waited it out to see, we definitely would have gone homeless, there’s no question about it,” Sophia told Docklands News.
“There’s just no way I was going to pay $1200 a week as a single mum with four children, two dependent college students, one two-year-old and one 10-year-old. There’s just no way; we don’t even know what person can afford that sort of rental.”
While Sophia managed to avoid homelessness, she said the move to the suburbs had initially proven particularly challenging for her 10-year-old son, who had formed a “really great connection” with Docklands Primary School.
She said her son, who struggled with mental health challenges, had received great support from the school, which had provided critical counselling services and a range of extra-curricular activities.
“He [my son] was really invested in the school, so it was a really difficult decision to say, ‘look, we have no choice’,” Sophia said.
It [Docklands Primary] was the best. Months after it opened, we actually moved into that school and he had developed a really great connection with the school itself, despite the fact that he was struggling.
“He had a lot of support in that school. They offered school counselling where he used to see a counsellor every week.”
“He was having piano lessons, he was in soccer – everything was centred around the school, which was wonderful that the school even offered those kinds of things. As well as the psychological support. He really needed those sessions.”
A Docklands Primary School representative said while families didn’t tend to disclose the reasons for relocating their children, it had noticed an increased number of students leaving its school to move out to the suburbs during the past year.
Despite having now settled into a new school and another new community, Sophia and her family’s story is becoming an increasing common one amid Australia’s housing crisis as communities are broken up due to circumstances beyond their control.
She said while general cost-of-living increases were a part of life, in cases whereby rents more than doubled in some instances governments needed to intervene with more support measures for tenants.
“Income goes up, cost of living goes up. The people who own properties also have expenses, and they have to deal with it as well, so if rents don’t increase then we’ll be we’ll just be transferring the crisis from us renters to those owners,” she said.
“But for properties that have doubled without any real valid reason, I’d absolutely be supportive of a rent freeze or something to that effect.”
Victorian Greens MP for Melbourne Ellen Sandell, whose party has been calling on the government to introduce rental freezes and caps, said it was “devastating to hear that families are being forced to leave their school and the local Docklands community because of rent rises and huge housing costs”.
“It was a real shame to see that Labor’s recent housing statement did nothing to help renters, and failed to do anything to address skyrocketing rents which are forcing people to leave their communities,” Ms Sandell said.
“The Greens are pushing for an urgent rent freeze and ongoing rent caps to ensure people can keep a roof over their head during this cost-of-living crisis.”
“Unlimited rent increases should be illegal, and I’ll keep pushing for this in Parliament.”
So far, all levels of government have been resistant to proposed rental caps and freezes, with economists arguing that housing supply remains the biggest issue in helping bring rental prices unders control. •