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Kelly* is a single mum of two. The rental crisis has been 'traumatising' for her.

Moving house for anyone can be stressful enough, let alone as a single mother with two children. This is what Kelly* has had to endure each year for the past three years with her children, aged eight and four - her eight-year-old has autism. She is now seeking a rental to move in to for the fourth time since 2019.

Kelly says she may be just unlucky, considering she has friends who pay the same amount of rent but have stayed in their rentals much longer than her. Whichever way you look at it, it is not ideal and the instability she is experiencing is a reality for many of late, with increasing competition for rentals, a lack of supply and rising costs of rent. 

Watch: A spoken word video staring Laura Bryne articulating the contradiction of pressures that mothers face in their daily lives. Story continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Terese Edwards, Chief Executive Officer of National Council of Single Mothers & their Children says “She is not alone. It’s so difficult to find assistance with moving and storage, the cost of relocating is staggering, emotionally and financially. There’s a lag time between paying and receiving a bond. It's forced, it’s a false economy and the tab is picked up by women.”

It is these emotional, financial and physical costs that Kelly says impacts her the most. 

Kelly says, “My daughter is starting to stress out, worried she won’t be near her friends. Friends for autistic children are difficult as it is and it’s amazing that she has some. She doesn’t understand why we have to move all the time. She says, ‘I like this house mummy. I don’t like moving. I don't feel safe having to move.’ 


“I have no family here, so I’ve tried to stay near school to make things a little easier. And being a single parent, I need to be near the supports of my friends.

“I was so traumatised by the last move. I’m even starting to hear cardboard boxes and tape ripping! I have play equipment I need to move with me each time because swinging on monkey bars helps calm my daughter’s sensory issues of her autism.”

This sense of security, connection and support is what Edwards says is particularly hard for single mothers who are caring for children with special needs. “Familiarity can have an elevated need of importance. The continuous disruption can take its toll upon children of feeling secure, connected to their community, their school and friends.”

In August 2020, Kelly’s landlord said they needed to sell, apparently due to COVID related reasons. After Kelly moved out, she found out the landlord put it back on the market again. “Apparently, there was a change in the market.”

She found a place in September 2020 and about a year later, “They really wanted me out because they wanted to renovate before they sell. They were really forceful. They rang and emailed me everyday with properties to go and see, questioned my applications and asked why I wouldn't take these ones. I had to take my children to all the viewings. It was so stressful and I was putting their health at risk too because COVID was rife at the time. Thankfully a real estate agent helped me find a place. I’ve been in here 10 months and they’ve just given me seven weeks notice, saying that when the lease is up, the owners are going to move back in.”


Edwards says, “Relocating, especially a forced relocation, greatly affects the purse strings, there are so many additional and hidden costs, and for too many it's not a ‘once off.’

Kelly knows they haven’t done anything illegal, but it’s just not viable to move every year. “Financially, it's such a hellhole. I had to get rid of all my furniture to move in here because it has built-ins everywhere. I have to keep adjusting my furniture. And the stress after evictions is just terrible.  I was shattered with this one, because I was told that they wanted long term tenants.”

Listen to This Glorious Mess where they talk about on how to thrive as a single parent. Story continues below.

This is a story Edwards is all too familiar with in her work. “Each time a single mother is asked to leave there are great fears that she won't find another place. I'm working with women who get cycled in and out – get referred to the various emergency housing services - and with no outcome. There is not the stock.”

“The agent is trying to help by negotiating prices for me, but rents have gone up so much this year. I can no longer afford a three bedroom place for what I used to pay, which isn’t ideal. My daughter needs her space because of her sensory issues, which makes it very difficult for my little boy if they share a room. I found a place I liked but couldn’t afford what they were asking. I put in an application anyway, negotiating, a two year lease and that I could move in the next day. Someone else offered the full price and got it.” 


Because of her daughter’s special needs, Kelly can only work part time. Toni Wren, Executive Director of Anti-Poverty Week says, “Far too many children in Australia are living without the security of a safe home and not enough income to meet their basic needs. An immediate increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance by at least 50 per cent would help single parents as would an increase in base payments to at least $70 a day and a review of our inadequate family payment and child support systems.”

Edwards discusses the rental crisis and what needs to be done. “Women who can’t compete on level footing in the private market due to unconscious or conscious bias (plus income), should be able to access affordable and long term housing. A lack of investment has resulted in a crowded and over inflated private rental market. 

“Bond schemes and rent assistance are too low and out of step with rental costs. Some immediate steps should take place. A commitment to re-purpose existing and not used public housing. Revisit programmes such as the national rental affordability scheme, incentivizing developers. All new developments to quarantine buildings for affordable housing.”

Currently, Kelly has another month to look for a suitable rental. “I can only really relax in my house for nine months out of 12, by the time I pack, move in, unpack and assimilate. I may move in with a friend until I find something else, which will be very stressful because then I’ll have to put my stuff in storage.”

*Name is changed for privacy.

Helpful phone numbers as provided by Terese Edwards, Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Single Mothers & their Children:

Feature Image: Getty.