Nicole Wiffen knows "the struggle and anguish faced when applying for houses, being a tenant and a property manager."
The licensee of Wiffen Property Agents in Taree is revealing her experience of being a tenant, and sharing industry insight into the private rental market to contribute to the community conversation about homelessness and the challenges of accessing the private rental market in the Manning Valley.
With no place to go, Shane and Michelle were forced to rent a motel room in Taree and more than $4000 in savings put aside for a car quickly disappeared.
The couple submitted more than 100 rental applications and have only recently found transitional crisis housing with the support of Samaritans.
Ms Tate works on the private rental market frontline with a team of property managers who manage "one in three rental properties in Taree" and she says "probably 60 to 70 per cent of our tenants are on some sort of welfare."
Ms Tate believes the government contributes to the problem, calling for reform in how payments are made to recipients.
"They know the government will look after them, they don't have a care factor and the government could be doing so much more," Ms Tate said.
"They (the government) need to create boundaries, discipline, spend more money on education rather than just throwing it at them - there would be millions of dollars of waste in public housing that could be put to better use."
Both stories captured the attention of Ms Wiffen and are the catalyst for her choice to share her story.
"Until earlier this year I was a tenant and have rented through most agencies within the Taree area at one time or another," Ms Wiffen said.
"As a single mum, I have also been a welfare recipient for the best part of my renting life, and have used the rental bond loan - more than once.
"I know the struggles and anguish faced when applying for houses, being a tenant and a property manager.
"When I first read the story of Shane and Michelle, I was touched and felt for their family.
"It is hard for people to secure a rental property in the private market in the Manning Valley, even for applicants with good references and applications."
Demand for affordable private rentals exceeds supply, with Ms Wiffen revealing that 15 people recently applied to rent a property being managed by Wiffen Property Agents.
"This is the story for most of the homes we put up for lease. They all receive heavy interest. The simple fact is that there are more applicants than there are homes and not everyone can have the property. There is only one.
Being a working person, on welfare or having children actually isn't the reason why people are declined for homes.Nicole Wiffen
"Unless everyone wants to move into the one house together, only one applicant can move in.
"For every 'yes' a property manager gives, there are a lot more of, 'I am sorry, the application was declined.' We don't enjoy that part any more than the applicant does.
"On the other hand there are also a lot of homes in the Manning Valley that sit empty simply because owners don't wish to rent them out, usually because they have had a bad experience in the past with a tenant, or have heard of someone that has," Ms Wiffen explained.
"It can be very difficult for a landlord to recover costs from damage or loss of rent after it has happened, even with landlord insurance, and that does not give owners confidence to put tenants in their house, so they just sit empty."
Ms Wiffen believes the "majority of tenants do the right thing, but not all."
"Most of my landlords are not rich, as is perceived by a lot of people. Most landlords struggle to make ends meet and to get ahead in life.
"So when things go wrong, such as tenant damage or non-payment of rent, it can really stretch the landlord, sometimes to the point that they give up and sell the home."
It can be heartbreaking to see someone put everything into an investment home only to have it destroyed.Nicole Wiffen
Housing affordability in the Taree region is a significant issue and according to the 2019 Samaritans Rental Affordability Snapshot "only 7.1 per cent were deemed affordable and appropriate for households receiving any kind of income support."
Taree has almost half of its population on income support, mainly because the area is a popular retirement location, with more than 30 per cent of the population on the Aged Pension. With one per cent of the population waiting for social housing, and 10.8 per cent unemployed, this local government area has little to offer people on income support seeking affordable and appropriate private rentals, the report states.
"Available private rentals have been slowly decreasing over the past five years, and the percentage that are suitable for households on income support has reduced to zero for over half of the region."
While you're with us...
Did you know the Manning River Times is now offering breaking news alerts and a weekly email newsletter? Keep up-to-date with all the local news: SIGN UP HERE.