Story & photo Eve Jeffery
One might expect that blow-ins to town might find it hard to find accommodation but there is a growing trend toward locals not being able to find housing in what they feel is a landlord push for bigger dollars in the tourist trade. If Jodie Molloy from Evolution Concierge, Ra Dane, a born-and-bred local from Brookfarm, and Ben Ormonde, a personal transformation coach and master builder, can’t find a home, then who can?
Jodie Molloy says that she has been looking for three months and that everything is just over-priced. She says that landlords are trying to let permanent rental properties at holiday rental prices. She once had a landlord offer to rent her a dingy garage for $350pw.
‘I have had realtors’ receptionist advising me that I’m ineligible to complete a rental application form as I haven’t got a rental history,’ she says. ‘This should of course put me to the top of the list.
‘A private landlord advertised a price and then when he met me, he put the price up because I have my own business. A landlord offered a price verbally but at the 11th hour decided to holiday-let for summer. That left me in the lurch with almost three weeks to find a new home during spring school holidays. One landlord offered to extend my lease by four months but increased the rent by $350 per week for a property that was almost unfit for human habitation.’
Ben Ormonde is a new resident of Byron. ‘When I arrived in April this year, there was an abundance of properties in The Echo’, he says. ‘I found a great share-home within two days of arriving. I took out a six-month lease on the understanding that there would be an option to extend.’ Ben says the option to extend the lease never came as the rooms will now be let to higher-paying holiday tenants. ‘The owner had problems filling the rooms over winter, so lost a considerable amount of money. I can’t say I blame her for changing her mind and cashing in on the holiday market to recoup some of the losses. Finding a property in November has proven to be more elusive, even for a professional with a long-term good renting record and perfect credit rating.’
In a town that pretty much runs on the tourist trade, it is the locals who make the wheels turn, pour the beers and brew the coffee. Businessman and owner of the Byron Beach Café Ben Kirkwood says that one of the biggest hurdles he has in attracting good local staff or recruiting outside the area is the problem of a lack of affordable long term rentals in Byron Bay or its surrounds.
‘Many of our staff, especially juniors, live in Mullum, Bangalow or Ocean Shores,’ he says. ‘With very limited public transport options, especially on weekends or evenings, this is a huge problem. We have often had chefs in temporary accommodation for 6–12 months while trying to find a permanent rental close to town.’
Has to move
Ra Dane is born and bred – you really can’t get much more local than he is. Ra has been the head of a share house but has less than a week to find new digs.
He also feels partly responsible to the housemates he has been sharing with. ‘I have been in my current home for two and half years and for some reason the landlord is just not extending the lease. We’ve done nothing wrong.’
Ra and his roomies were given barely a month to move and the only reason was that the lease had ended. He hopes to find a new house where he can move in with his current ‘family’ but suspects he will have to go it alone. ‘After over two years as a good tenant I thought I would be given the opportunity to extend the lease’.
[image] Kicked to the kerb, Byron residents Ben, Jody and Ra will soon find themselves on the street after a fruitless search for housing in the Bay.