Lisa Smith* is so meticulous about her spending that she can’t even indulge in a $4 coffee.
Like a growing number of Wyndham residents, the 20-year-old is experiencing rental stress – defined as spending more than 30 per cent of a household’s gross earnings on rent.
Lisa forks out more than 60 per cent of her income to keep a roof over her head.
“I am currently getting about $1100 a fortnight from Centrelink, $700 of that goes to rent,” she said.
Data from the 2021 Census shows the number of Wyndham residents suffering from rental stress has almost tripled since the 2016 Census.
Just 9.1 per cent of respondents in 2016 said their rent payments were greater than or equal to 30 per cent of their household’s income, in 2021, the figure increased to 27.9 per cent.
Lisa moved to Melbourne from Mildura a few years ago as a homeless teenager and was only able to secure housing for her and her young daughter in a share home with another occupant.
“Without that, I would be on the streets, no one wanted to give me a go, so I had no choice but to go into a share house as a first-time renter,” she said.
“I survive with food banks, because my daughter is on an extremely expensive specialised formula, it currently cost $72 a tin, I’m also on medication, it doesn’t seem like much but it’s $35 for three different medications.
“It’s definitely gotten harder, the price of her formula went up from $50 to $72, the power’s rates have gone up, the gas rates have gone up.”
Lisa encourages others experiencing rental stress to reach out to community services for help.
“People going through this, reach out to churches to Salvation Army to community groups, you’d be amazed how much people want to help,” she said.
*Name has been changed to protect her identity