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Rising costs forcing renters back into share accommodation

Rising living costs are forcing more people back into share accommodation, as renters continue to get squeezed.

A new survey from Flatmates.com.au, found 57 per cent of people living in shared accommodation were forced to for financial reasons, while 10 per cent had to share because of the tight competition for solo rentals. 

Flatmates Community Manager, Claudia Conley, said after the move towards more space and larger homes in recent years, rising costs have forced many people to seek more affordable options.

“The pandemic drove many renters to reevaluate where and who they wanted to live with, with more space topping the list of requirements,” Ms Conley said.

“This year, we’ve seen the share house market change significantly. 

“With COVID normal underway, there’s been a shift from a desire for more space to simply being able to pay the bills.”

Ms Conley said a large proportion of renters live in share accommodation due to financial reasons, with current market pressures and the rising cost of living taking a toll. 

“Facing these pressures, we’ve seen share houses work together to navigate higher rents and costs, whether that means finding new ways to save money or looking for cheaper rooms to rent,” she said.

According to the survey, 45 per cent of respondents reported that their rent increased in the past six months. 

Of those who experienced a rent increase, more than half (52 per cent) said the increase was more than expected, with a similar proportion citing inflation as the reason behind the rise. 

As a result, almost one in two said they and their flatmates were now struggling to pay rent. 

While finances are a pain point for many, flatmates are getting creative to keep costs down. 

Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of respondents said they had introduced new house rules to help save costs, including cooking meals together (23 per cent), establishing rules for heater usage (22 per cent) and working or studying away from home to keep bills low (10 per cent).

Tight conditions in the share house market due to strong demand and limited supply, also mean that it’s taking longer to find a room. 

It took a quarter of respondents longer than usual to find a home, with 28 per cent having to pay more rent in order to secure a place. 

For those seeking a new room, only 30 per cent managed to find a place in under four weeks, a dip from the 62 per cent that found a home in under four weeks before January 2022. 

Ms Conley said that the face of share house living is evolving as rising costs and tight rental market conditions see people from all walks of life rent a room. 

Room seekers between 65 and 74 years old are the fastest growing demographic in Australian share houses, seeing an increase of 25 per cent over the five years to 2021, according to the 2021 Census. 

“Share houses today come in all shapes and sizes. Typical university share houses aren’t dominating the market like they used to,” Ms Conley said.

“Companionship and an additional income stream are increasingly popular reasons landlords opt into share house living. 

“With the rising cost of living and limited rental stock, we are seeing the number of diverse share houses full of families, single parents, elderly sharers, migrants and empty nesters continue to grow,”

Despite 30 per cent of people saying the tight rental market pushed them to share accommodation, the great Australian dream of owning property is not lost, with over half (56 per cent) of respondents still hoping to own a property one day.

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a freelance journalist specialising in finance and real estate.