Locals priced out of market as boomers eye sea change

LONDON: Boomer seachangers are driving up the price of housing in coastal hamlets and villages and are pricing out locals.

The Whitsundays used to be a tick-off-the-bucket-list place but is increasingly becoming a permanent destination rather than holiday stay.

The success of the region has driven the rental market up, and some local families out.

Amanda Jensen works for Whitsunday Counselling and Support, and has received countless calls over the past six months from locals in need of emergency housing.

However, the service is only funded to provide emergency housing for those escaping domestic and family violence.

Ms Jensen said a lot of women or families calling for help did not fit the criteria and the service reluctantly must pass them on to Whitsunday Housing or the Department of Housing.

For some locals, Ms Jensen said the only choice had been to leave the area.

“We’ve seen a lot of people actually move to Bowen. I can think of two that have gone as far as Rockhampton and Gladstone,” she said.

Emma De-Lisle is a single mother of two who has lived in Airlie Beach for six years.

Three of those years she has spent in a rental apartment in Cannonvale, which was sold five months ago.

“I have a really good rapport with my agents, and they had to break the news to me that it was being sold,” she said.

“I got so upset I cried because I knew what was coming.”

After the sale, Ms De-Lisle was given notice that her lease would not be renewed.

For five months, she has been looking for a suitable and affordable place to move in with her two daughters aged 18 months and four years.

But such places are few and far between, and Ms De-Lisle is not alone in her struggles.

On a local Facebook community page, she said she saw someone post every day about needing somewhere to live.

Ms De-Lisle was told by Whitsunday Housing that there was nothing available in the area.

Andrew Willcox, the Mayor of Whitsunday Regional Council, said the region had been a victim of its own success.

“We’ve really tried to make the Whitsundays a fantastic place to live, work and play and we’ve been able to achieve that,” he said.

“Because of COVID, the southern people are coming and investing a hell of a lot quicker than what we thought, and we’ve been caught a little bit off guard.

Ms De-Lisle used to receive subsidised rent as a single mother under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).

NRAS was a national scheme that gave incentives to housing providers, which then rented properties out for at least 20 per cent below market rates.

It was axed by the Abbott government in 2014.

While technically these rental subsidies can be offered until 2026, many below-market tenancies have and continue to expire before this date.

When it ended for Ms De-Lisle more than a year ago, her rent increased by more than $100 a week.

Her current lease ends on February 23 and she will return to work full time next week.

“My daughter starts school this year in two weeks.

“Airlie Beach is my home.”