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WA rentals disappear as housing shortfall comes into sharp focus

By Juliet Helmke
11 April 2023 | 10 minute read
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A worrying trend is keeping a steady pace in Western Australia, with the number of rental properties continuing to decline.

Analysing the government-issued data on rental bonds, the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA) has determined that the pool of rental properties fell to 219,679 at the end of March, a loss of 861 properties so far in 2023 alone and a decline of almost 5,000 in the past 12 months.

This continues the course of the past two years, with the overall number of rentals present in the state falling by 19,000 since January 2021.

Western Australia appears to be on a concerning trajectory with housing supply in general, as highlighted in a recent report by the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC), which estimated it would face a shortfall of 25,200 new properties by 2027.

That’s out of a national shortfall of 106,300, which REIWA CEO Cath Hart noted puts the state with a disproportionately high number of needed dwellings in the near future.

“The alarming aspect of this report for us is that WA alone was identified as requiring 25,200 dwellings — this is nearly a quarter of the entire national shortfall even though we are only about 10 per cent of Australia’s population,” Ms Hart said.

She described the figures as a “huge concern” and warned that renters would be the hardest hit.

“We can expect the rental crisis to worsen and put more pressure on government housing,” she warned.

Ms Hart said that while the construction of new properties had to be a priority in the future, so, too, should measures to increase investor involvement be part of the equation in tackling the state’s current and looming crises.

“The priority needs to be how we get those 19,000 investors to come back and buy a property they will lease to someone else and, perhaps even more importantly, ensure that those people who do currently own a rental property, hang on to it and keep renting it out”.

For this reason, she opined that caution was needed as the state tackles reforms to its Residential Tenancies Act.

“Those that still have investment properties are listening to the debate over rental reform in WA, and they’re telling us they’re very nervous about some of the changes being considered,” she said.

Some of the proposals include ending no-grounds evictions, expanding the parameters within which a landlord must provide consent before certain modifications to the property are made, and making it easier for tenants to own pets.

Ms Hart said that landlords have faced a tough set of circumstances since the onset of COVID-19, and many are taking the opportunity of a fair sale price to cash out.

“Now that prices have improved, they’re taking the opportunity to move on, but encouraging them to retain rental properties in the WA market is a significant part of addressing our housing challenge, so a reasonable approach to RTA reform is a key part of that,” Ms Hart said.


Juliet Helmke

Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.

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