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The art of finding affordable housing

By Lynette Mwangi
Created 09/05/2009 - 16:19

The art of finding affordable housing
by Lynette Mwangi

There is an art to finding affordable housing, especially if one is in the world’s most expensive cities. I discovered this when I arrived in Sydney early this year. As one of my main concerns, I went looking for housing industry experts to give me a couple of tips on how to get a fairly priced rental accommodation.

True, statistics reveal that indeed housing prices have dropped recently. This is according to data released by the Australia Bureau of Statistics [1] (ABS) in February (House price indexes-Eight Capital Cities), and mortgage interest rates have dropped too. This is a positive reflection as housing affordability in general has improved.

While I was looking for a place to live, the biggest issue for me was whether I would afford the rent. Affordability is relative as most would argue. So the question arises, “How then do I find affordable housing?” Many of us believe that affordable housing is difficult to find.

Experts in the housing industry, however, say that people look for housing in all the wrong areas, especially where they cannot afford.

As obvious as the money factor might seem, Matt Otway of Southern Waters Real Estate Agency says that most people tend to ignore it.

“People’s emotions get in the way regardless of what they know they have to spend,” Mr Otway said.

“I reckon that people should be diligent and think with their heads and not their hearts,” he said.

Housing experts say that anyone could get affordable housing if they looked for it in areas where they could afford. Fringe areas of popular places and higher density living areas such as apartments, unit blocks and villas are said to be a good starting point for renters. An additional alternative is to check all forms of media, agencies and organizations that offer information on housing.

Professor Peter Phibbs of the University of Western Sydney’s centre for Urban Research said that the best strategy for renters is to keep out of major cities and focus on regional areas.

“Share housing is a good option for moderate and low income earners,” Dr Phibbs said.

This truly works. I currently live with a friend in a unit block located in Miranda suburb. The rent is affordable and I pay almost 40 percent less of the rental prices in the city.

There are sacrifices that come along with finding an affordable house. I personally wanted to live in the city in order to have easier access to my university. The rental prices in the city were too high and I had settle with what’s best for my pocket.

Housing industry experts advise that every state has a couple of outlets that address the issue of housing. Housing NSW (Centre for Affordable Housing) [2] is among the organizations that enable people living in NSW to address the need of housing and also finding the most affordable option.

The HIA Report [3] shows improved housing affordability rates across major states in Australia. Therefore I guess we are all in a good position to get “affordable” housing.

There are many factors that we might tend to overlook but at the end of the day they determine where and how we live. We might be our very own agents of “housing stress”. Should we stop putting blame on the government?

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