Real-life stories highlight affordable housing shortage

Accommodation shortage

Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Sharon Farrow (above) one of many impacted by the affordable housing shortage. Image: supplied.
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Port Douglas’ affordable accommodation shortage for both local and out-of-town workers is taking on a life of its own as there is no short-term fix to this immediate and on-going problem.

Two leading Port Douglas realtors have already underlined the reality that there is a shortage. To compound the problem, many of the available rentals are not in the heart of the town and the weekly rent is steep ($370-$400) for a casual worker.

Rentals are tight and demand exceeds supply, said Alan Crossman, Principal and Licensee, Property Shop Port Douglas and Mossman.

“There are currently 25-odd properties for let, but about half of these are not in Port Douglas. Unless workers have transport then the out-of-town properties are not an option.”

David Cotton, Raine and Horne Port Douglas Director and Licensee, confirmed the housing shortage and said people wanting to re-locate in Port Douglas will have limited options. There is the backpacker hostel or shared accommodation.

Sharon Farrow is one of many who contacted Newsport to illustrate and highlight the predicament she and fellow local or out-of-town workers are facing.

“It is constantly on our community Facebook page that we have workers who have obtained a position, but have nowhere to live.

“I am also in this position where I now have a fabulous dream job to go to, but have to live with a friend and leave my caravan in the driveway because there is absolutely no accommodation to rent,” said Ms Farrow.

She said something needs to be done about this.

“We need help to work out a solution to this problem. We have workers now that want these jobs, but they can’t stay because they have no housing.

“Surely there is some vacant land somewhere in Port Douglas that can be used as temporary accommodation for all these workers that we need to keep up with this very busy time. We could hire portable homes and set up some ‘porta loos’ to use,” said Ms Farrow.

House hopping

Melissa Micallef is among a list of many who is unable to find affordable and available accommodation.

“I am happy to throw my name in the hat for this one. I've been hopping from friends' house to house for over a month now while trying to find my own accommodation. I'm glad this crisis may finally get some space on a public forum that might make a difference,” she said.

Opting for anonymity, a local of 21 years along with her 16-year-old daughter, said her lease was not renewed, they are together working four jobs and living out of somebody’s spare bedroom right now.

Another said they had to move to Mossman, although they did not want to, but were extremely fortunate to have gained a private rental, otherwise they would have been homeless.

“However, I now have two kids that may have to quit their jobs in port as getting them to and from work around my work hours is becoming difficult. Let's face it, the cost of a taxi or a shuttle is far from worth it.”

A rent hike forced Kevin Michael Harris to leave his port accommodation after the owner put the rent up $30 a week.

“The unit was already way above real market value; it’s getting insane. Income versus rent is out of kilter.”

And Kim Kurray started housekeeping a few days a week a couple of months ago. “I was just parking around town the first few weeks, but that got old very quick, and didn't feel safe. I am now parked up in someone’s driveway.”

In addressing the “disgraceful accommodation problem”, another said: “Yes, tourists are needed. But there must be some form of balance in looking after locals to keep the town running well.”

But there is good news for Sharon. She can now get into the caravan park on 6 July, “which I am super excited about.”

Note: The average age of these workers is 20-40+ and at the time of loading this story, the list of affected workers on the community Facebook page continues to grow.

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