Australia’s rental vacancy rate dropped to an all-time low in May and sharehouse vacancy has plummeted this year as unaffordability locks more people into renting longterm. And yes we can blame our bonkers house prices.

Even though lockdowns made many people never want to live with housemates again, as it turns out finding a room in a sharehouse is still fucking hard.

“Despite the initial increase in vacancy in the pandemic, demand in inner-city areas has returned and vacancy is now low,” Flatmates.com.au Community Manager Claudia Conley told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“Occupancy is back to pre-pandemic levels and in some areas demand is far outstripping supply for rooms in sharehouses.”

Nationally, there is a ratio of five people looking for each room in a sharehouse available on Flatmates.com.au. It’s dipped slightly since a two-year peak in March 2022 when there were eight people for each room available, but this is still bad news.

Zooming in on some areas the situation gets much worse.

There are currently 11.3 people looking for each sharehouse room available in SA, down from its March peak of more than 48 people per room. Radelaide!!?

There is a ratio of 16.4 people looking at each available room in the NT, down from its astonishing January peak of 103.6 people (!!!) per room.

And while Melbourne and Sydney don’t seem as bad in comparison with a ratio of about 6:1, finding rooms in some inner-city suburbs is practically impossible.

A room in a Redfern sharehouse costs an average of $293 per week, lol, and you’ll be competing with 19 other room-seekers, according to Flatmates.com.au. Want to live in Fitzroy? You’ll be competing with 51 people per room.

Rental property vacancy has dropped in all capital cities since this time last year.

“The national vacancy rate is at 1.0 per cent for the third consecutive month and this is the lowest on our record that we’ve seen,” Chief of Research and Economics for Domain Dr Nicola Powell told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

Adelaide has the lowest vacancy rate with just 0.3 per cent of rental properties currently available to lease.

“That is like finding a needle in a haystack in terms of a renter trying to find a rental to lease,” Powell said.

Melbourne had the most unoccupied rentals as of May 2022 with the nation’s highest vacancy rate of 1.6 per cent, followed closely by Sydney at 1.4 per cent. But this is still *really low* and a huge drop since May 2021 when 3.6 per cent of Melbourne rentals were available.

But Australia’s migration rate has been declining steeply even since before the pandemic and current net migration rate is 5.4 per 1000 population, which is a 4.4 per cent decline from 2021.

So with fewer people in the country overall, why is it so hard to find a place to rent rn?

The main reasons are the high cost of living and housing affordability in the toilet.

“The cost of living has contributed greatly to the large increase in demand for rentals with more people seeing shared accommodation as a long term and legitimate way to live,” Conley said.

“The limited stock and competitive market are adding extra stress for room-seekers.”

Well, that’s just grim. First my petrol, electricity and lettuces, now the roof over my head.

And house prices are out of control. They rose 25 per-fucking-cent nationwide in 2021 alone and even more in Sydney, naturally.

“No one can keep up with that level of price growth,” Powell said.

“The escalation in property prices during the pandemic has locked people into the rental market for longer because of their inability to break into the housing market.”

Powell said it was good to see state and federal governments attempting to address the issue with a number of immediate relief measures like shared equity schemes and fewer taxes.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced a First Home Buyer Choice scheme to reform stamp duty on Monday, which will allow buyers to choose between an upfront payment or a smaller annual property tax.

But Powell said ultimately we needed to balance supply and demand, and one effective way to do that is to build more affordable and public housing.

“The rental market and the sales market are interlinked and I think we’ve got people in the private rental market that probably should be in social housing,” she said.

“That needs to be something that’s addressed by government. We need to make sure our most vulnerable Australians are being housed in social housing. That puts additional pressure on the rental market when really they should be in a social home.” 

Until then, the rental crisis is forecast to last quite a while longer.

Ball’s in your court, Albo.