parent opinion

'Honestly, the rental market is putting me off having a baby.'

About six months ago, I was caught up in a bit of a frenzy of wanting to buy a dog for the first time. I've always been an animal enthusiast and, unfortunately for my partner, I am also quite childish, impulsive, and I was just starting to earn enough money for the first time in my life for buying a puppy to become a legitimate possibility

I began feverishly researching 'oodle' breeders (I am, after all, both mildly allergic and quite basic), drawing up budgets for my theoretical new dog friend, and putting my name down on a lot of alert lists for puppies. Much to my partner's dismay and despite some protestation, I was drawing dangerously close to sealing the deal, putting a deposit down and paying for a small curly guy to be delivered to our house

There was only one hurdle left, really: alerting our landlord and real estate agent. This proved to be more problematic than I had anticipated. I recalled that, in the original online listing for our house, the owners were open to pet owners, and I guess I had staked my heart on this a little too much, as I ended up missing the clause in our lease agreement that directly contradicted this, stating that no pets were allowed.

When I received the email from our real estate agent that no, I would not be allowed to have a dog living on the premises, I was apoplectic. Honestly, I became more violently angry than I had been in months. Not because I'm extremely anti-authority and despise being told what to do (although, yes, that is part of it) but because the homeowners apparently didn't owe me any explanation. They said no and that was it – and that didn't make any sense to me. After all, the property has a f**king dog door.


I am made patently aware of said dog door every moment of my goddamn life because when I am sitting in my living room I can watch my neighbours' feet go by and quite often their greyhound will come around and stare at us through it for disturbing amounts of time. The existence of the dog door implies very heavily that the whole 'no-dogs' thing is a rule for just us, the lowly peasant renters, and not an ongoing rule for the household. 

How long will the rental crisis last, and what will fix it? Post continues after video.

Video via ABC News 

There has been more discussion in the past year about abolishing landlords' ability to turn down pets with no reasonable excuse and the fresh Labor government proposed altering the pet application process in the run-up to the election this year, but so far, no concrete legislative changes have come through. 

But this is about more than just pets – when my landlord bluntly killed the dog dream, I was overwhelmed by a profound sense of disempowerment in my decision-making capacity for how I'd like to build my lifestyle and home. It was a rude reminder that some of the shots in my life are simply beyond my call, and it was bizarrely destabilising. 


Now, having just turned 30 and being increasingly surrounded by friends and family having babies and gently prodding us about when might be the right time for me and my partner, that feeling hasn't gone away.

I know that my Sydney landlord would be well within their rights to end our lease (with 30 days' notice) at the end of every agreement. Or boot us out with the same notice period if the house is sold while we're still in it (last time this happened, I felt like we were a sort of family of mice that just incidentally happened to be nesting in the thing the buyers wanted – "You can buy it, buddy, but there's a bunch of tenants living in there.") 

Then there's always the possibility that the landlords will effectively force us out with one of the absolutely absurd rent hikes that we've seen so many of in the news recently, including one young Sydney tenant who is currently on a crusade to fight a $700-per-fortnight rental hike.

Amidst all of this, I just don't even know how I could begin to start planning for a pregnancy, as much as I might like the idea of becoming a parent. I don't want to feel like I'm living under somebody's thumb while I'm pregnant. I don't want to worry about tenancy agreements and exploitative rent raises and being forced to let a woman in every couple of months who judges me on whether or not I've cleared the dishes off the kitchen counter. 


I don't want to be in a living situation where, in any given month, my partner and I and the theoretical baby could be turfed out to try to find another rental home in a situation that has become less a property market and more a fight to the death in the Octagon.

Listen to the Quicky's episode on renting for life. 

I understand that people have children under far more pressing circumstances, but I don't believe that anybody would think this is the ideal scenario in which to start a family. And I know that this isn't specific to me as a renter, either. A deeply unsurprising study that was published back in 2021 found that renters who feel locked out of home ownership feel less inclined to have children; and conversely, increases in housing wealth are associated with a rise in the probability of having a child. 

Turns out, renting is a fairly effective form of contraception.

When I asked the Mamamia team if anybody else could relate to this feeling of being caught in baby-housing limbo, there was definitely some agreement. One coworker lamented about not being able to save for a mortgage on a property big enough for kids, plus the additional stress of paying for IVF on top. 

"It makes me annoyed because I'm 30 this year and I feel like people think children should be in my near future – but how?!"


Another person told me that she's actually currently enjoying the space and area that she can afford to live in with her child – accessible to her only through renting – but she has growing concerns about his schooling. 

"With my son starting school in 2025, I'm already feeling stressed about how to manage this as a renter because I have the insecurity of not knowing where I'm going to live and how that impacts schooling."

Yesterday, it was reported through a Sydney Morning Herald poll that two-thirds of young Australians are giving up on the idea of home ownership at all. As we're squeezed out of the market by people who don't understand how to better invest their money, perhaps the case isn't that I should be hinging my hopes on home ownership in order to establish stability.

When I spoke to Leo Patterson Ross, CEO of the Tenants' Union of NSW, he told me that tenancy deterring people from having children is something he's encountered both in his work and his personal life.

"It's definitely something that people talk to us about – when people start thinking about having kids, that's the point at which they start becoming aware of how unfair and rotten the renting system is." 

Patterson Ross explained that, for a time, he was living in a one-bedroom property with his one-year-old and trying to move, and facing uncertainty about properties weighed on his and his family's mind. 


"It meant we put off having more children because it was already big enough of a deal," he said.

"When people are younger without kids and they're forced to move, it's inconvenient – but when people have kids, it's an upheaval." 

Ultimately, Patterson Ross advocates for the idea that policy is the real solution in terms of being able to feel grounded as a tenant – having access to long-term leases, being able to alter the aesthetics of a home, and capping rent increases so that they're only proportionate with inflation, unless the house has actually been improved in some way.

It sounds so simple when he draws it out like this: it's not home ownership in and of itself that's the goal; it's all the benefits that come with it. And in an ideal policy landscape, those benefits would be attainable for everyone. 

Maybe I shouldn't feel oppressed and worried by my housing situation; maybe it would be okay to raise a child in a rental home, and maybe instead, the pressure should lie with our lawmakers to pass more tenant-friendly legislation that would make me feel less like an invasive family of mice if I were to start having children.

Image: Supplied/Canva

Calling all internet users! Take our survey now and go in the running to win a $100 gift voucher!