Dunsborough rental crisis

Currently, only four rentals are available to residents looking for long term tenancies. Image supplied.

Currently, only four rentals are available to residents looking for long term tenancies. Image supplied.

Families in Dunsborough are facing a housing crisis and are unable to secure long term rental properties to live in.

At the time of publication, only four residential properties were available to rent in the popular tourist destination on Western Australia's southwest coast.

In comparison, more than 300 properties in Dunsborough are listed online as short stay accommodation.

Census data from 2016 showed the coastal town had a population of 6,039 people with 3,852 dwellings, of which 2,030 homes were occupied and 555 were rental properties.

Of the 3,852 residential properties in Dunsborough a mere 0.1 per cent are now available for rent to long term tenants compared to 14 per cent four years ago.

A number of residents have told the Mail that the home they currently lease had been sold and they have been unable to find another suitable home to live in.

At a time of year when residents would normally secure a long term lease, property owners have opted to turn their investment properties into holiday homes.

Dunsborough resident Tim Greay has lived in the town with his wife for the past eight years, he runs two businesses and has three children who attend school there.

Mr Greay said it was frustrating and not much had been done since the state government conducted its inquiry into short term accommodation.

"The City of Busselton council has also permitted doing certain things but have not implemented anything from the inquiry," he said.

"We now have a long-term housing crisis in Dunsborough that is affecting a lot of families.

"The issue is the city's long-term planning strategy is failing.

"I am not a spokesperson but I am one concerned resident that this is immediately affecting."

Currently, short stay accommodation is permitted in all parts of the Dunsborough urban area, which includes Quindalup and some rural areas.

City of Busselton director of planning and development services Paul Needham said at present, there were approximately 290 registered holiday homes in Dunsborough and Quindalup.

"That represents around 12 per cent of dwellings in the Dunsborough urban area," he said.

"When the city's current system of holiday home regulation was introduced in 2013, preferred areas were identified," he said.

"Dunsborough Lakes and areas of Dunsborough west of Naturaliste Terrace were not in the identified preferred areas.

"The council reviewed the approach several years ago and decided to remove the preferred areas designated and essentially treat all areas equally.

"The reason for that change was that holiday homes were being proposed outside the preferred areas and having considered applications on their merits, it was not seen to be a clear basis to distinguish the preferred areas."

Mr Needham said the availability and affordability of residential rentals in Dunsborough and in some other locations in the city, has been a challenge for quite some time.

"Recent experience (since COVID-19 related intrastate travel restrictions were in place) is that when houses were not being used as holiday homes, it could increase the available stock of residential rentals," he said.

"It does not necessarily follow that tightening of restrictions on holiday homes would result in a sustainable increase in residential rental availability during more normal times.

"A proportion of the new homes being built in Dunsborough and some other parts of the city, are being built with the specific intent that they will be used as holiday homes.

"Tighter restrictions on holiday homes might simply result in some of those houses not being built in the first place or being built elsewhere."

Stocker Preston managing director Louis De Chiera said property owners were choosing to take their investment properties off the permanent rental market opting for the short term market because it might be more lucrative.

"It is something everyone is jumping to and there will potentially be an oversupply in that market, then everyone will look back to rentals on a permanent basis," he said.

"Because of COVID-19 we have seen more people coming to the area to holiday but the accommodation is already there.

"I think what will happen after six to twelve months, people will see that short term accommodation has not been as lucrative as they thought then will move back to the more permanent market.

"It is an issue at the moment but I see it potentially swinging back once things have settled down."

WA's interstate and international border closures during the pandemic has seen an influx of visitors to the region in winter when many Western Australians would choose to holiday in warmer climates.

Mr De Chiera said during the winter school holidays which have just past he had never seen Dunsborough so busy with tourists.

"It is purely COVID-19 driven, people are taking the opportunity, those with houses and investment properties to rent them out during this period," he said.

"It is running hot in that space and it might continue for another six to twelve months, but at some point when people can travel again it will open up different markets elsewhere.

"The other thing is a lot of vacant lots have been sold and some of that construction maybe for rental properties and help in the rental market.

"A lot of the blocks that are being sold in the Lakes are more suited to longer term tenancies rather than short term.

"You will find investors that build in Dunsborough Lakes that quite a few rental properties will come to the market later in the year or early next year."

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said she had no doubt the changing landscape in the property market was very much COVID-19 driven both in terms of the demand for investment in properties and the shortage of the long term rental.

Community concerns around the expansion of short stay properties, in a large part drove the Parliamentary inquiry into Airbnb, but unfortunately these reforms are yet to be implemented by Government," she said.

"I have written to the Minister for Planning on behalf of local residents who have raised this concern seeking an update on the progress of the state response to this policy challenge which is impacting local families."

For Dunsborough resident Lauren Nicole it comes at no relief, Ms Nicole needs to find a rental property before July 26, 2020 when her lease ends.

"I grew up in this area," she said.

"We are moving out of the rental we are in now because they are selling the house. We are having a lot of issues trying to find something in the area .

"We are only a couple and a small dog so we don't need anything big but there is just nothing in this area now at all, and we need a house that allows dogs too.

"We have had to look in surrounding areas and are even struggling there to find something."

Business owner Jane Ashton echoed her sentiments after her partner was told he had to leave his rental property after living there for 15 years.

"He was living in a chalet on a winery, a cold caller came through and bought the property, it was a real shock to the system," she said.

"They are trying to tell us we have four weeks - it has been impossible to find something.

"We have been looking between Dunsborough and Margaret River because our business is based in Cowaramup.

"It is really bizarre, I look at the market quite regularly over winter, whenever I have to move I make sure it's in winter because there are more available properties.

"There is nothing at the moment, it is scary."

This story Dunsborough rental crisis first appeared on Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.