In the lead up to the state election housing advocacy groups have been calling on candidates to address a crisis in rental affordability gripping regional NSW. But what does the rental affordability crisis look like in Dubbo?
According to the latest property price data, the median rental price for a house in Dubbo has grown by 12.5 percent over the past 12 months and now sits at $450 a week, and rental costs for units have grown by 10.3 percent to a median of $320 a week.
For a four bedroom house, renters can now expect to pay a median of $510 a week, up from $415 a week in January 2021.
A two-bedroom house is more affordable at just $350 a week - an increase of $50 a week since January 2021.
Median weekly rental costs in Dubbo, January 2023
Unit dwellers are also facing increased rents over the past twelve months. In January 2021, the median weekly rent was just $270 a week for a two bedroom unit and $185 a week for a one bedroom unit.
Now, renters can expect to pay $320 a week for a two bedroom unit and $240 a week for one bedroom.
Maiy Azize, spokesperson for housing advocacy group Everybody's Home, said SQM Research Weekly Rents Index data shows Western NSW, including Broken Hill and Dubbo, is among the regions with the largest rental price rises.
"It's been a shocking, challenging year for regional NSW tenants. Inflation is yet to peak while wages aren't keeping up," she said.
"Landlords have passed the cost of interest rate rises onto renters. Floods have had a devastating impact on lives and housing stock, and residential vacancy rates remain below one per cent in many regions."
While some renters may be able to swallow the rising prices, experts say the pressure of rent hikes disproportionately impacts those in more vulnerable groups in society pushing more people onto the social housing waitlist.
The latest Rental Affordability Index (RAI) report released in November 2022 classifies weekly rental costs as "moderately unaffordable" for the average Dubbo household.
The index, created by SGS Economics and Planning, tracks rental prices in cities across Australia against household income.
Rental Affordability Index scores for Dubbo, November 2022
For Dubbo locals living on a pension or on benefits the affordability picture becomes more bleak.
For a single person living on benefits Dubbo rental prices are "extremely unaffordable" (an index of 50 or less), for single pensioners "severely unaffordable" (50 to 80) and for pensioner couples "unaffordable" (80 to 100).
Ian Wray, long term Vinnies volunteer in Dubbo and St Vincent de Paul Society Castlereagh Regional president, said many people within the community were foregoing other necessities in order to afford their weekly rent.
"High and unaffordable housing costs mean that people are having to forgo other basics, such as food, heating and cooling, or essential medicines," he said.
"Without a stable, affordable home, the difficulty of holding down a job, caring for a family, or even having enough food to eat regularly all increase significantly."
The latest figures released by the Department of Communities and Justice reveal NSW is facing its greatest demand for social housing since 2016. In Dubbo, the number of social housing applications has risen by 31 percent from 588 to 770 over the past 12 months.
As well as rising interest rates being passed on from landlord to tenant, industry experts say a lack of housing stock is behind the increasing prices with rental vacancy at just 1.2 percent in Dubbo.
Rental vacancy rates in Western NSW
"The rental market is broken, with supply falling well short of housing demand," said Home in Place manager of business and public affairs Martin Kennedy.
"Vacancy rates have plummeted across the State - in many areas, rental housing isn't just unaffordable, it's unavailable."
With development applications currently before council for a number of new housing options- including a 48 townhouse development on the old Forestry Office site and the redevelopment of the old Daily Liberal site - renters could see some relief in the future as housing stock grows.
But with these developments still years away and Dubbo's rental prices projected to grow further, renters will keep feeling the pressure for some time yet.
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