Housing – Michmutters

Owner of seven properties says landlords getting a raw deal

Andrew Duggan owns seven homes, but he wants people to know he’s not a bad bloke.

He’s been flipping properties in Queensland from a home office in Sydney for 25 years and seems acutely familiar with the public perception of landlords.

“Landlords are very unpopular people,” Mr Duggan said.

“There’s the perception of the evil landlord, the cinematic slum lord idea.

“And there’s a perception that landlords are sitting on piles of cash and sitting around on our yachts.

“The reality is whilst we have the titles to these properties, they’re very much mortgaged.”

Man wearing hi-vis shirt mowing the lawn outside.
Landlord Andrew Duggan is considering getting out of the property game.(ABCNews/7.30)

He insisted he was not doing an interview to “cry poor”, but despondently declared “the good times for landlords are over”.

A long-time advocate of buying up real estate, he’s considering selling up and getting out of the property game.

Mr Duggan said the decline of his lucrative portfolio began five years ago when he was locked into an excessive interest rate with a major bank.

But he is also critical of tenancy laws and state-based land taxes.

After years of advocacy from housing organisations, the Victorian, Tasmanian and ACT governments have recently banned landlords from evicting tenants without grounds.

Man trimming a hedge.
Andrew Duggan says he doesn’t want to “profiteer from our tenants.”(ABCNews/7.30)

Queensland, where most of Mr Duggan’s properties are located, also banned the practice, except at the end of a fixed-term rental agreement.

“As far as I can see, landlords have next to no rights and tenants have all the rights. It’s kind of swung a long way in that direction and it’s probably swung too far,” he said.

Mr Duggan said the “default” position of civil courts adjudicating disputes between property owners and their renters was that “the property owner will always lose”.

He said he had increased the rent in at least one of his properties over the last year due to the increase in Queensland’s land tax.

“I’m not a charity, that’s for certain. I think we’re very fair with our tenants. We don’t want to profit from our tenants, but we do want to create an equilibrium between our incomings and outgoings so we’ re not going backwards,” he said.

This couple rent their apartment out for 10 per cent less than it’s worth

A man wearing glasses smiles next to a woman wearing a black top.
“We didn’t want to do what other people had done to us,” landlords Thomas Shafee and Katrina Alcorn say.(ABCNews/7.30)

When Thomas Shafee and Katrina Alcorn bought their own apartment and left the rental market five years ago, the Melbourne-based couple were overwhelmed with relief.

“As tenants [before owning a home] we have been in some situations with great landlords and we’ve been in some situations with terrible landlords,” Mr Shafee said.

“We’ve had uncertain housing in our lives too,” Ms Alcorn added.

With the pair now considering starting a family, they considered their one-bedroom Heidelberg Heights flat too small and have decided to upsize, but said they felt “icky” trying to cash in on the tightening real estate market.

Instead, they’ve offered the property up as an affordable rental and listed it for 10 per cent below what they had been quoted by other agents.

A man wearing a striped scarf standing next to a woman wearing a black top.
Thomas Shafee and Katrina Alcorn felt strongly about keeping their property affordable.(ABCNews/7.30)

“When there is so much pressure with the prices going up and the supply going down it’s really easy for people to be forced into situations where they are taken advantage of, so it’s nice to be able to do something that avoids some of those ethical pitfalls ,” MrShafee said.

“We didn’t want to do what other people had done to us,” Ms Alcorn said.

“That’s one of the reasons we feel really strongly about this.”

Mr Shafee said he and his partner intended to be “ethical” landlords and employ a hands-off approach to their incoming tenant.

“This is not some investment item that we’re talking about, it’s something that someone is going to live in, so it makes a big difference how [the property] is going to be run,” he said.

Mr Shafee and Ms Alcorn are renting the property through HomeGround Real Estate, an agency that offers affordable rentals and donates the profits it makes from management fees to Launch, a community housing organization.

Problem ‘just going to get worse’

woman sitting at a table
Michele Adair says “renters just haven’t been valued.”(ABC News: Tim Fernandez)

Renters’ advocate and chief executive of the NSW Housing Trust Michele Adair said state laws were still skewed in favor of landlords because property in Australia was seen as a means of wealth creation rather than shelter.

“There are lots of really good private landlords [that] provide affordable rental housing, but the problem that we have is that renters just haven’t been valued,” Ms Adair said.

“One in three people rent a home today and probably nine out of ten rents at some stage, yet we have had decades of government policy which just really disregards the rights of tenants and their safety and security.

“We continue to have this myth and fallacy pushed by private interest groups who, as we have seen, just continue to push the wealth creation and profit motive.”

Ms Adair said the so-called “motive” had led to the current rental crisis.

“There is no end in sight and without urgent action by all levels of government. The problem is just going to get worse for the foreseeable future and I’m afraid that means years and not months.”

Watch this story on 7.30 on ABC TV and ABC iview.



Queensland tenants under pressure as rents rise amid calls for compassion from landlords

Queensland is sold to the world as the sunshine state, rich with resources and the golden future home of the Olympics.

Last year, the state’s population swelled by 50,000 interstate migrants, and at the same time a two-speed property market drove a nightmare market for renters.

In the 12 months to July, Brisbane tenants faced an average rent rise of 9 per cent for apartments and 13 per cent for houses.

Throw in the return of overseas migration, low vacancy rates and a building supply crisis, and the state’s tenants union says it is facing a rental crisis where landlords hold all the power.

Cairo Sauvage is in his 20s and lives in a share house in Morningside with his partner and housemates.

They are about to move out after two months of uncertainty after their landlord asked them to renew their lease but did not give them a price.

Fearing the worst, the housemates began looking for new accommodation. At the last minute, the landlord asked for an extra $40 a week, Mr Sauvage said.

“In that time frame of him taking so long to come back, me and my housemates were like ‘we feel like it’s going to be going up’. [In the end] we thought it was going to go up more than it did,” he said.

“We started applying for new places. We got approved for a place so we decided to move.

“Living with other people has its ups and downs, but it drives the cost down. Finding a place that’s a one-unit bedroom is [more than] $350, so it wasn’t doable.”

‘Rent-vesting’ as mortgages too hard to maintain

Mr Sauvage has a unique perspective to the rental crisis as a “rent-vester”, where he lives in a rental but owns a home in the inner-Brisbane suburb of Windsor.

He bought at the peak of the property boom last year with money he had received through an inheritance.

But he cannot afford to live alone in the home and considers it more of a long-term investment.

“I managed to secure something that was a little bit out of my price range, and that is the reason I have turned it into an investment,” he said.

Now a landlord himself, he said tenants hold little power in the arrangement.

“It’s really up to the discretion of the landlord, and that’s what I don’t think is right… how much they want to care for their property and for the tenant’s general wellbeing,” he said.

“If the tenant is terrible, the landlord has powers based on our current legislation to kick them out. If a landlord is terrible, the tenant doesn’t have much to fall back on.”

Rents have increased by more than $60 a week in Brisbane.(ABC News: Nic MacBean)

How COVID changed the rental market

CoreLogic economist Kaytlin Ezzy said COVID reshaped the way Queenslanders chose to live and it was having lasting consequences.

“Through COVID, we saw household size shrinkage. There are more individual households, because people didn’t want to be locked down with roommates, so that has a really strong impact,” she said.

“Anecdotally over COVID, we saw a lot of first home buyers move out of the family home and purchase their first property at the same time that rental yields were at some of their lowest on record.

“For the housing market, the outlook really depends on how hard and how fast the RBA increases interest rates. I do think that Brisbane will be slightly more resilient compared to Sydney and Melbourne markets.

“We do expect that the value declines will become more broad-based and as such will affect more Brisbane markets as we move forward into that downward cycle.”

She said pressure on the rental market was not likely to ease for the foreseeable future.

“Especially as overseas migration returns to that pre-COVID level,” she said.

Headshot of Tenants Queensland CEO Penny Carr.
Tenants Queensland CEO Penny Carr.(ABC News: Michael Lloyd)

Queensland’s tenants union, Tenants Queensland, operates an advice call center — QSTARS — for renters, and its chief executive Penny Carr said it was fielding daily calls from tenants in distress.

“Just today on our advice service we had an aged pensioner call us and tell us her rent is going up from $305 to $450 per week,” she said.

“People want to keep a roof over their head so they’ll often prioritize the rent, so they’ve got to not turn the heater on, or not have lunch, or not go out.

“For those people even on moderate incomes now it really is a hard choice… because they’re not having many things that they don’t need already.”

She said there were some avenues of appeal for tenants offered unreasonable rent rises, including raising the issue with the Residential Tenancies Authority and the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

“The problem with doing that is as a consumer you have to have a fair bit of market knowledge, but the other thing is if the court doesn’t agree with you, you have a fixed term agreement that you’ve just signed.



Rural ecovillage harvests timber from nearby forest, with houses made from recycled materials

In the Fryers Forest, around 50 kilometers south of Bendigo, one group of residents isn’t feeling the rising cost of living as hard as most.

Hamish MacCallum is one of 30 people who live in a rural ecovillage, nestled in the forest in Fryerstown.

Standing in the kitchen of the house he built himself, he proudly explains the kitchen bench was a cypress tree that fell on a local farmer’s property during last year’s storms.

“[It’s about] taking a waste product, a fallen down tree, and turning it into something beautiful,” he says.

“The whole kitchen is recycled.

A man standing in kitchen, kitchen made from timber
A lot of the kitchen cupboards came from someone else’s kitchen.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert )

“All the cupboards and drawers, everything came from other kitchens that had been pulled out.”

There’s no heater inside, with the firewood stove in the kitchen emitting more than enough heat to warm the house.

“That’s only been running now for about half an hour,” Mr MacCallum says at 10am.

“It’s generating our hot water and providing us with an oven and a stovetop for cooking on as well.”

A man putting firewood into an oven
Powered by firewood, the house’s stove and oven generates hot water and cooks the family’s meals.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Mr MacCallum estimates his power bills are a third of the price of the average family’s electricity bills.

“I’m spending $150 on electricity for three months for the two households,” he says.

“It’s $100 a year for the gas bill.”

The bushfire management consultant and landscape designer put a huge amount of thought into designing and creating the house, with insulation and solar passive design a main priority.

“With a solar passive design, it’s using the sun to heat or cool the house by including or excluding it at particular times of year,” he says.

What looks like a cabin, with wood and roof of foyer room made from wood
The entrance to the houses, also a mudroom, was made from recycled wood, including old furniture.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Timber from surrounding forest

Mr MacCallum has become an expert at reusing and recycling.

The house is made from 50 per cent recycled and reused materials, most of which were locally sourced.

On the verandah, two pieces of wooden ‘bush poles’ were eleven trees on this block of land.

A photo of the front door
The two wooden poles were trees on this block of land, which used to be a quarry.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Other pieces of wood were collected and stored from unexpected places.

“A lot of the timber came from a timber furniture maker who decided to give up his profession and sell it all on,” he says.

In the Fryers Forest eco-village, residents do forestry work, harvesting timber from the forest around them.

“Our expense is the time we spend collecting the wood from the forest, when we’ve done some tree thinning,” Mr MacCallum says.

A picture of the middle wall of the house, which is mud brick, bordered by wood from trees
The mud brick wall, made from milled timber from the site, collects heat in winter and cool air in summer.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

“Always when we’re doing forestry, we get the highest value out of the timber as possible.

“Each season, we cut enough to provide the whole village with enough firewood to last them a season.

“The firewood [for the stove] is just a good solid day’s labor and a few days of forestry [work].”

A photo of a wooden frame of a house, when straw was being added as insulation
Some of the materials used for insulation include straw and wool.(Supplied: Hamish MacCallum )

Mr MacCallum refers to the concrete floor as a ‘thermal mass’ which holds the heat and keeps the house warm in winter and cool during summer.

In the middle of the house, a mud brick wall has the same function.

“It stores the cool over the summer and the heat over the winter and then releases it back into the household so you can wake up in the morning without any heating and the house will still be warm,” he says.

“The eaves that overhang the north side of the house, where most of the windows are, stop the sun coming into the house.”

Sharing food eliminates waste

Mr MacCallum’s family shares the house with another family, with two separate living quarters under the one roof.

Their efforts to live sustainably, with as little waste as possible, mean sharing a bathroom, laundry and food.

“A part of our strategy is to buy in bulk foods and to store in a big freezer,” he says.

“I might go hunting and harvest a lot of meat and then store the meat, the fat and the bones … make bone broth or render the fat down into lard or tallow and use that for cooking.”

A man watering a conservatory garden with a hose.
The conservatory stays hot and is able to mimic a tropical climate, for optimal growth conditions.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

He’s also committed to growing his own fruit and vegetables.

“80 per cent of our fruit and veg can come from [the garden] here,” he says.

But recently Mr MacCallum has been sourcing more of his produce from his local market, rather than his own garden.

“I help him [the seller] pack up and we get to take home a whole heap of fruit and vegetables,” he says.

“Sometimes that means that I’ve got to spend hours or preserving that produce.

“[Sometimes] that’s a few months’ worth of passata bottled and stored in an afternoon.”

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Hamish MacCallum has built his house using 50 percent second hand materials(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Built to withstand bushfire

Mr MacCallum has spent years teaching others how to retrofit their houses for bushfire safety, so it was always going to be front of mind in designing and building his own eco-friendly house.

“I wanted to demonstrate how landscapes can reduce bushfire risk and be productive at the same time and beautiful at the same time as well,” he says.

Everything in his yard was planted for bushfire mitigation.

Fruit trees border his backyard, providing a heat shield against the fire front.

“The fruit tree hedge, also protected by the stone wall from radiant heat, acts as a heat and ember filter, as well as wind protection for the fruit and vegetable garden,” he says.

It may have taken years to build, and countless tutorials and tradesmen to help him learn new skills, but Mr MacCallum was never going to shy away from the challenge of living as sustainably and efficiently as possible.

“I wanted to take a piece of degraded land and turn it back into something beautiful and productive,” he says.



Tree-change nightmare: Elderly couple’s home contents sold off by removalist company

An elderly Bribie Island couple is fighting for compensation after a removalist sold off their belongings during their interstate move to Bega in NSW.

The removal company, Kent Removals & Storage, apologized and described the incident as the result of human error, but lawyers say the retirees would have to take $50,000 from their pension to help recover just some of the items.

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Retirees Gary and Lorraine Taylor, aged in their late 70s, moved from Queensland to Bega in southeast NSW one year ago, making the tree change after more than 60 years of marriage.

They packed all of their possessions, including furniture and sentimental belongings, into two removal trucks – one of which contained $120,000 worth of furniture they would never see again.

When Wridgways, the removalist company they had originally planned to use, went into liquidation in July 2021, Kent Removals & Storage took 160 of its clients – including the Taylors.

Kent Removals & Storage was also assisting court-appointed liquidator Hall Chadwick to sell off Wridgways’ assets, such as office furniture, and say there was confusion over one of the containers full of the Taylors’ belongings.

That container was accidentally sent to online auction company Grays Online where everything was auctioned off at a fraction of its value.

Retirees Gary and Lorraine Taylor are distracted over the nightmare move during which interstate removalists sold off their belongings. Credit: 7NEWS
Two containers left the Taylors’ Bribie Island home last year, holding a lifetime of belongings that they would never see again. Credit: 7NEWS

Gary told 7NEWS his $28,000 rug was sold off for around $200.

It has left the couple in limbo. Some of their furniture had multiple pieces which were split between the two moving containers, so much of what did arrive could not be assembled.

Couch cushions with no frame and a dressing table without its mirror are stacked up within the bare-walled Bega house that is still piled with boxes.

“We’ve been married for 60 years, and 60 years of our bloody furniture has just gone down the tube and nobody cares,” Gary told 7NEWS.

Lorraine spoke through tears as she told 7NEWS the incident was “very hard to describe.”

“It’s not believable what we’ve been through,” she said.

“Its been terrible for both of us, and for our family.”

The Taylors were told by their lawyer that they could take legal action to recover some of their losses but it would cost the retirees $50,000.

That is money the couple would need to take from their retirement fund and something they cannot afford to do.

A year after their move the Taylors’ home in Bega is still largely empty. Credit: 7NEWS
Pieces of furniture were split between the two containers, which means some of what did arrive remains unassembled in their home. Credit: 7NEWS

Kent Removals & Storage CEO Steve Alves told 7NEWS: “Due to human error, one of the containers containing the effects belonging to Mr and Mrs Taylor was incorrectly sent to Grays Online for sale of the goods.”

Alves said the matter was only reported to him last Thursday and he has since apologized for the handling of the matter.

He said the matter had been referred to Kent’s insurers but that, “the matter was incorrectly internalized between Kent, Grays Online and Hall Chadwick with a view to establishing liability for this error”.

“As Kent Relocation Group contracted with Mr and Mrs Taylor and, irrespective of where the liability resides, Kent Relocation Group could and should have taken a lead role in this process and did not.”

Alves said the company “apologies for the way in which this matter has been handled.”

“Our team will focus on ensuring we support Mr and Mrs Taylor in any way we can to bring closure to this matter for them.

“In terms of the missing items, given the quantum of the potential claim, the matter has been referred to Kent’s insurers along with an instruction to ensure that the matter is expedited in a prompt, efficient and reasonable manner for Mr and Mrs Taylor”.

So far only 40 per cent of the moving charges have been refunded, but since the matter was escalated Alves said Kent Removals & Storage would work to refund 100 per cent of the moving charges.

As to whether they will see a refund of their $120,000 worth of lost furniture, they must wait for the companies’ insurance process to run its course to find out.

Diver wins crowd over with epic belly flop.

Diver wins crowd over with epic belly flop.



Australian rental crisis: Experts warn of continuing rental crisis amid claims landlords are hiking rents in response to interest rate rises

Experts say Australian renters are bearing the brunt of an industry-wide housing crisis, with some reporting rent rises as much as $150 a week.

But the experts say there is no quick fix and fear the situation is set to worsen.

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A lack of supply combined with four consecutive interest rate rises has increased the average rental price across Australia’s capital cities by up to $55 over the course of a year.

RMIT Center for Urban Research senior research fellow Dr Megan Nethercote said it was going to get worse before it got better.

Australian renters are bearing the brunt of an industry-wide housing crisis. Credit: Getty Images

“With the latest interest rate rise and subsequent belt-tightening, renters risk their landlords passing on the costs of rising mortgage repayments,” Nethercote said.

“Some renters will lose their homes as landlords sell up.

“The plight of renters looks set to worsen as the knock-on effects of rising interest rates filter through to renters and combine with cost-of-living pressures.

“With almost half of renters on rental assistance already in rental stress, the risk of some renters falling into homelessness is real and high.”

How much are rents rising by?

Rents rose across the board in the year to June, according to Domain’s latest rental report.

The average rent for a house across the capital cities rose from $460 to $515 while units increased from $410 to $460.

RMIT research fellow Dr Louise Dorignon said rent prices were driven by demand. The only way to balance prices was to increase supply, she said.

Tenants are reporting their rent increasing in recent months, coinciding with rate rises.

The latest RBA decision on Tuesday increased the cash rate by 0.5 per cent, effectively adding $174 to monthly repayments for the average Australian mortgage holder.

Is it legal for your landlord to put up rent?

Tenant advocacy groups and industry experts have previously told 7NEWS.com.au there was nothing stopping landlords from passing on that cost to tenants.

“Landlords can increase rent due to an interest rate rise, however, they need to be prepared for tenants to push back if it’s not warranted or it’s excessive,” property management agency :Different head of customer experience Shannyn Laird said.

“Landlords can also increase the rent if the lease is periodic (meaning it’s not fixed) and the tenant hasn’t had a rent increase in a certain time period.”

Weekly rents rose by 2.2 per cent in the three months to June, with yearly growth at seven per cent. Credit: AAP

How often can a landlord put up your rent?

Laws on how frequently a landlord can increase rent vary depending on the Australian jurisdiction.

In Queensland and Western Australia, in most cases, landlords can only increase rent every six months and must give 60 days’ notice.

In Victoria, NSW, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, landlords can increase rent once every 12 months and must also give roughly two months’ notice.

In the Northern Territory, landlords can increase rent once every six months and only have to give 30 days’ notice.

Is there a limit to how much your rent can go up?

Your landlord can increase the rent, but there are rules on how much they can increase it by.

In most cases, it must be considered as not being “excessive” or “unreasonable”.

Tenants can complain to their jurisdiction’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal if they feel it is excessive.

What constitutes excessive differs in each jurisdiction. But, generally, rental bodies compare the increase to similar market rents and the physical condition of the property.

What can be done to fix the issue?

In short, quite a bit.

Dorignon said the current apartment stock doesn’t provide sufficient quality to meet the needs of current and future households.

“We need to transition to alternative and innovative modes of housing production, such as using less carbon-intensive materials, which would create more liveable apartment homes and, in the long term, more affordable ones for households,” Dorignon said.

Nethercote said renters represented a “growing cohort” in Australia.

“Renters deserve homes that are affordable, provide adequate security of tenure, are well-maintained and have appropriate provisions for tenant representation,” Nethercote said.

“Meeting these needs requires strong national leadership on housing; they warrant serious deliberation within a new national housing agenda.”

Watch: Scientists stunned by discovery of a ‘walking shark’.

Watch: Scientists stunned by discovery of a ‘walking shark’.



South Australians can soon buy their first home with low deposit on HomeStart loans

Owning a home could soon become a reality for more South Australians with a state-government backed lender lowering their minimum deposit requirements.

Eligible graduates will be able to apply for a home loan with HomeStart Finance with as little as 2 per cent deposit.

Successful applicants will not need to pay lender’s mortgage insurance — required by most lenders if home buyers do not have 20 per cent deposit — potentially shaving off thousands of dollars in upfront costs.

Dwelling prices in July have grown for Adelaide, Perth and Darwin while other Australian major cities dropped as interest rates surge.

Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said the loan could wipe months off savings plans of people trying to buy their first home.

“Rather than South Australians having to spend years and years trying to save 20 per cent deposit to get a loan with one of the big four banks, instead that time is now reduced perhaps to only months,” he said.

A man in a business suit speaking with another man in the background
SA Treasurer Stephen Mullighan says the loan scheme will open doors for more South Australians into the housing market.

Mr Mullighan said the deposit reduction for the HomeStart scheme would allow low-to-medium income earners an opportunity to compete at auctions.

He said the government was expecting the Adelaide housing market to stabilize as interest rates rise.

“Even though some of the heat is going to be coming out of the market, for the first time we’re going to be seeing South Australians armed properly so they can compete in the market,” he said.

He estimates more than 250,000 South Australians with a Certificate III or higher qualification will be eligible for the scheme.

The previous minimum deposit required for that loan is 3 per cent.

For a $400,000 home, loan applicants will only need to fork out $8,000 in deposit and for a $850,000 price tag, buyers will pay $17,000 instead of $25,500 in deposit.

for sale sign adelaide 2
South Australians will be able to get their homes sooner with HomeStart dropping their minimum deposit requirement.(ABC News: Meagan Dillon)

Electrician Robert Thiel and hospitality worker Beth Mayfield, who are currently renting at Lockleys, say the change will help the couple get into the housing market sooner.

“Any amount you can save as a potential home owner is life-changing,” Ms Mayfield said.

“I never thought it would be possible for myself, to be honest, so it’s really exciting that it might be something really attainable for us.”

Ms Mayfield said her rent has increased in recent months, encouraging her to consider becoming a home owner.

The HomeStart graduate loan will be offered from Tuesday.



Adelaide couple turns property into Joanna Life Skills Centre, refuge for vulnerable people

Carol Coleman had been dreaming for years when she stumbled on the rundown church campsite that is now the Joanna Life Skills Centre.

Her husband Rob was passing through the small farming area in South Australia’s Coonawarra region for work when he spotted it.

Once Carol saw it, their Adelaide life as they knew it changed forever.

“I was hysterical. All I could see was people in a safe place, warm in bed and with food in their mouths. And that was just so important to me,” Ms Coleman said.

“It wasn’t a choice. It was like this has been shown to us. We have to do it. We just have to do it.”

When they bought the site in 2017, its 12 buildings, with 42 bedrooms, had been vacant for two years and were in need of desperate repair.

It didn’t matter.

“When you’re working in mental health and you see the terrible situations that people are in, you look at a place like this and think ‘this place can make a big difference’,” Ms Coleman said.

Trees and grass surround a white building.
There are 12 buildings on the property including a recreation room, commercial kitchen, and seven housing blocks.(ABC South East S.A.: Bec Whetham)

“So we packed up and we’re here.”

Over the years, they’ve chipped away at renovations, getting the place up to a good living standard for the people with disabilities and mental health needs that come to stay.

The NDIS registered service looks after 15 people at any one time. Most visit for two weeks to “catch their breath”, while others have stayed 12 months.

While there, visitors help clean and look after the animals. They have the opportunity to learn life skills like cooking and changing a tire.

“The whole idea is that they can look after themselves at the end of it all,” Mr Coleman said.

“While they’re vulnerable, they can be here. And when they’re a little more settled, they can go elsewhere and enjoy their life.”

Two chairs with rugs on them sit by a window, a table with cosmetics and nail polish between them.
Carol has created a pamper room for visitors to relax in.(ABC South East S.A.: Bec Whetham)

Vision for the site

Carol Coleman isn’t afraid of vulnerable people. Before studying as a nurse, her mother’s trade de ella, she worked as a cleaner at Glenside Psychiatric Hospital in Adelaide.

“Back in the 80s, people were looked after really well,” Ms Coleman said.

“It was once people started to be moved out into the community that people really started to struggle.”

While some residents who went into homes received lifetime support, Ms Coleman said others didn’t.

A few guitars and drums sit on a carpeted floor next to a piano.
There’s lots to keep people busy at the center.(ABC South East S.A.: Bec Whetham)

“I remember one particular lady was placed in a house across the road from me. She only used the lounge room and the toilet because she was too scared to go into the other rooms,” Ms Coleman said.

“She was a paranoid schizophrenic.

“She ended up walking out in front of cars because she was so distressed.”

Ms Coleman doesn’t know where she ended up.

“It’s people like that you just want to wrap your arms around and go, ‘you can be safe here. You don’t have to be frightened anymore’,” Ms Coleman said.

“There are thousands of people in situations that it’s just cruel to them.

“It’s not something to look down on, it’s something to open people’s eyes and go, ‘How can we help?'”

A worn basketball court surrounded by lawn and gum trees.
The basketball court at Joanna Life Skills Centre.(ABC South East S.A.: Bec Whetham)

While the center may be Carol’s vision, Rob is just as involved.

His experience managing waste transfer systems for 45 years has been put to good use.

“I find managing people in local government is pretty much the same in managing people here,” Mr Coleman said.

“Everyone has problems. It’s about transferring those skills of dealing with people over to dealing with people on a day-by-day basis.”

Learning life skills

Molly is using the center to catch her breath after a tough divorce.

During her month there, she has enjoyed coloring in, playing puzzles, going to the recreation room, and feeding Rosie the lamb.

“I like it here. It’s much calmer,” Molly said.

“Being in Mount Gambier was so stressful, I was so stressed all the time. I just couldn’t cope. But being here, I love it.”

A woman in jeans and a hoodie sits on some grass patting a lamb.
Getting to know lamb Rosie has been one of the highlights of Molly’s stay.(ABC South East S.A.: Bec Whetham)

Lately, she’s been busy preparing for her first prom later this month. The Colemans are taking her from her.

“They encourage me not to give up on things. If I say I don’t want to, they say, ‘come on. You can do it’,” Molly said.

“They’re really sweet and kind and caring for me.”

Required to help look after the grounds, Molly has taken to her new responsibilities well.

“It’s all part of normal life. If they’re going to leave here and go and find their own place to live, they’ve got to be able to look after what they’ve got,” Mr Coleman said.

A woman wearing jeans and a hooded jumper holds a rake smiling.
Molly making herself useful.(ABC South East S.A.: Bec Whetham)

Five years in the making

The work on site continues. In five years, they’ve managed to renovate most of the accommodation — adapting 42 small bedrooms to fewer but larger rooms with more living spaces and wet areas.

“It’s taken us a long time. Two people can only work so fast. And then you have to have the funds to buy materials,” Ms Coleman said.

“It’s been a hard slog but it’s absolutely worth it.”

A man walks into a small weatherboard building on an overcast day.
Rob has turned an old school building on the site into a functioning gym. He just needs to clad the outside.(ABC South East S.A.: Bec Whetham)

They were able to fund the project early on by accommodating local meatworkers.

“We were contacted by Regional Development when we arrived,” Ms Coleman said.

“That was like a gift from heaven because they basically gave us the opportunity to establish the place. We housed probably 140 workers over two years.”

A horse stands eats at some grass.
Various animals call the center home.(ABC South East S.A.: Bec Whetham)

future hopes

The Colemans plan to keep adding facilities to the site — like a woodworking shed and community garden.

“The property’s huge. We have to use it,” Ms Coleman said.

Whilst clients can already access occupational therapist, dietitian and physiotherapist support at the center, the couple hopes for more services.

“In the future, it needs to be a one-stop-shop so that people have got all the support around them that they need,” Ms Coleman said.

“These people are humans, they’ve got a whole lot of needs. And it takes an army to fill those needs.”

A pool table and billiards table sit in a large hall with a TV and other games.
Those staying are encouraged to enjoy the recreation room.(ABC South East S.A.: Bec Whetham)

Having extra staff around is also crucial for lightening the couple’s load.

They have had just one day off in five years but it’s a price they’re willing to pay.

“This is our retirement,” Ms. Coleman said.

Mr Coleman said people tended to stay in contact after they left the centre.

“Carol often gets a couple of phone calls a day from past ones that have been here. And they just check in, say hello,” he said.

“Sometimes they might not be feeling that great. And a chat for five minutes is enough to keep them on track.”

A man and woman stand on a dirt road surrounded by trees, laughing.
Rob and Carol Coleman are committed to being here for the long haul.(ABC South East S.A.: Bec Whetham)

After the implications of renovations and COVID-19, the Colemans say they’re ready to take on more visitors.

“We’ve been under the radar for some time,” Ms Coleman said.

“For a place this big with so many opportunities, people need to know that we’re here.”



Is the economy in a recession? Top economists weigh in

‘We should have an objective definition’

Officially, the NBER defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months.” In fact, the latest quarterly gross domestic product report, which tracks the overall health of the economy, showed a second consecutive contraction this year.

Still, if the NBER ultimately declares a recession, it could be months from now, and it will factor in other considerations, as well, such as employment and personal income.

What really matters is their paychecks aren’t reaching as far.

Thomas Philipson

former acting chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers

That puts the country in a gray area, Philipson said.

“Why do we let an academic group decide?” he said. “We should have an objective definition, not the opinion of an academic committee.”

Consumers are behaving like we’re in a recession

For now, consumers should be focusing on energy price shocks and overall inflation, Philipson added. “That’s impacting everyday Americans.”

To that end, the Federal Reserve is making aggressive moves to temper surging inflation, but “it will take a while for it to work its way through,” he said.

“Powell is raising the federal funds rate, and he’s leaving himself open to raise it again in September,” said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, an economics professor at George Washington University and former chief economist at the Labor Department. “He’s saying all the right things.”

However, consumers “are paying more for gas and food so they have to cut back on other spending,” Furchtgott-Roth said.

“Negative news continues to mount up,” she added. “We are definitely in a recession.”

What comes next: ‘The path to a soft landing’

The direction of the labor market will be key in determining the future state of the economy, both experts said.

Decreases in consumption come first, Philipson noted. “If businesses can’t sell as much as they used to because consumers aren’t buying as much, then they lay off workers.”

On the upside, “we have twice the number of job openings as unemployed people so employers are not going to be so quick to lay people off,” according to Furchtgott-Roth.

“That’s the way to a soft landing,” she said.

3 ways to prepare your finances for a recession

While the impact of record inflation is being felt across the board, every household will experience a pullback to a different degree, depending on their income, savings and job security.

Still, there are a few ways to prepare for a recession that are universal, according to Larry Harris, the Fred V. Keenan Chair in Finance at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business and a former chief economist of the Securities and Exchange Commission .

Here’s his advice:

  1. Streamline your spending. “If they expect they will be forced to cut back, the sooner they do it, the better off they’ll be,” Harris said. That may mean cutting a few expenses now that you just want and really don’t need, such as the subscription services that you signed up for during the Covid pandemic. If you don’t use it, lose it.
  2. Avoid variable-rate debts. Most credit cards have a variable annual percentage rate, which means there’s a direct connection to the Fed’s benchmark, so anyone who carries a balance will see their interest charges jump with each move by the Fed. Homeowners with adjustable-rate mortgages or home equity lines of credit, which are pegged to the prime rate, will also be affected.

    That makes this a particularly good time to identify the loans you have outstanding and see if refinancing makes sense. “If there’s an opportunity to refinance into a fixed rate, do it now before rates rise further,” Harris said.

  3. Consider stashing extra cash in Series I bonds. These inflation-protected assets, backed by the federal government, are nearly risk-free and pay a 9.62% annual rate through October, the highest yield on record.

    Although there are purchase limits and you can’t tap the money for at least one year, you’ll score a much better return than a savings account or a one-year certificate of deposit, which pays less than 2%. (Rates on online savings accounts, money market accounts and certificates of deposit are all poised to go up but it will be a while before those returns compete with inflation.)

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SA government to use former aged care home to help transition NDIS patients out of hospital

A former aged care home will be used to transition NDIS patients who no longer need acute medical care out of hospital in a bid to free up capacity across South Australia’s overwhelmed health system.

The state’s hospitals continue to face unprecedented pressure, with 341 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 11 who are in intensive care.

There have also been 984 people hospitalized with the flu this year.

The new 24-bed community care facility will open next week at the former site of Uniting SA’s Regency Green aged care home.

Health Minister Chris Picton said the new facility would provide transitional care to NDIS patients with a psychosocial disability while they received mental health support.

“It’s going to give a much more peaceful and calming environment for them, the appropriate care that’s going to be provided by CLO (Community Living Options) but also making sure we are freeing up those beds,” he said.

A woman wearing a purple blazer and purple lipstick with a serious expression
SA’s Human Services Minister Nat Cook says some NDIS patients have been waiting in hospital for over a year. (abcnews)

There are currently 127 patients in public hospital beds who are eligible for NDIS support services and ready to be discharged.

“These are people who it has been difficult to find elsewhere because they do need appropriate supports,” Mr Picton said.

“These are people who have NDIS clearance, are medically cleared to be discharged from hospital but there simply aren’t places for them to go.”

The facility will cost $1.2 million to open and will initially only take patients from Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN).

It will be run by CLO in partnership with Wellbeing SA, Uniting SA, CALHN and the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist.

Human Services Minister Nat Cook said for some NDIS patients, hospital could worsen conditions and escalate behaviours.

“These people, some of them have remained in hospital not just for weeks and months but for over a year,” she said.

“They have been stuck in other step-down facilities as well without pathways or coordinated journeys for discharge to home.”

A woman with short brown hair wearing a beige scarf and a black top
COVID acute commander Lesley Dwyer says 230 patients have been moved out of hospital and into aged care facilities. (abcnews)

Acute System Response COVID Commander Lesley Dwyer said in the last few weeks, 57 NDIS patients had been discharged into more appropriate accommodation.

“Accommodation that is much more home-like gives people a chance to really experience independence that they probably haven’t had while they have been in the acute system,” she said.

“In addition to that, we have also discharged 230 people into aged care beds.”

The latest data from the SA Ambulance Service shows ambulances spent 3,647 hours ramped outside hospitals during July.

The previous month, SA recorded its worst ramping times on record with 3,838 hours lost waiting for beds to become available.

The state recorded 2,421 new cases of COVID-19 today and eight deaths of patients ranging in age from their 60s to 90s.

There are currently 17,647 active cases in the state.



Rental stress hits families in Toowoomba with $15 standing between home and homelessness

Fifteen dollars might be spare change to some but, for those trying to contend with feeding a family and grappling with rising costs of living it is a rent rise few can afford.

According to a new survey from Data Finance Analytics Toowoomba, southern Queensland has one of the highest rates of mortgage and rent stress in the country.

The survey of 47,000 people across Australia found 61 per cent of renters were under rental stress, while in Toowoomba 57 per cent of the 240 respondents experienced rental stress.

Lyndal Hood is one of them. She and her husband’s rent has recently risen by $15 a week.

“Our rent went up from $230 to $245 when we got our new lease,” she said.

Ms Hood’s husband works in retail, and she worked in hospitality until forced to take a break after a heart attack late last year.

major sacrifice

Ms Hood said while it may seem like a small amount, it quickly added up.

“That extra $30 to [fortnight]that’s the price of my medications,” she said.

“That means no extra money left over, and it’s not like we’re bludgers.

“If it went up further, we’d have to leave because we can barely cope with what we’ve got.”

Welcome to Toowoomba sign surrounded by flowers
Toowoomba has been known as Australia’s Garden City since the 1940s.(ABC Southern Qld: Peter Gunders)

Ms Hood said she had no choice but to stay in her property and pay the extra amount.

“I feel like we’re just stuck,” she said.

“We look around town at what else is out there and it’s no better than this place. The house across the road is $360 a week and it’s a dive.”

Darling Downs and South West REIQ president Daniel Burrett said rent rises were generally the landlord’s reaction to increasing interest rates.

“Rents are continuing to go up,” he said.

“The average rent price in Toowoomba is in the early $400s. It used to be around the $330 to $340 mark.”

statewide surge

Statewide it is no secret that rent is also surging, particularly in high-growth areas.

According to the Everybody’s Home campaign that coincides with Homelessness Week this week, the average rent on the Gold Coast rose by over 15 per cent in the past three years.

Everybody’s Home spokesperson Kate Colvin said the data proved how many people were at risk of homelessness.

“We know that rental stress is the gateway to homelessness,” she said.

“When you combine surging rents with flat wages you put people in a financial vice and for the past three years that vice has been tightening.”

Ms Colvin said it would not just affect low to middle-income earners and was “a handbrake on the economy right through regional Australia”.

“You have situations where in tourism locations restaurants can’t open every day of the week because they can’t get the staff, or aged care services around the country where they simply can’t get the staff to operate at full capacity,” she said.

“A part of the reason for that is because people won’t move to an area to take up work if they can’t find a house or a property in the rental market.

“In terms of our economic health, particularly in regional Australia, housing is an important part of the picture.”

never been worse

Data Finance Analytics principal Martin Short said he had never seen it as bad.

“Unfortunately, both rental stress and mortgage stress seem to rise and the pressure on households is really stressful and growing,” he said.

“I’ve never seen it so high with almost half of households with a rent obligation finding it really difficult to service it.

“It’s the worst in the high-growth corridors, the areas of the country that have been on a lot of new developments.”

Lowset brick house with For Rent sign out front.
Housing advocate Everybody’s Home says surging rents with flat wages have put people in a “financial vice”.(ABC News: Lucy Robinson)

Rents rose by 12.1 per cent on the Sunshine Coast to an average of $641 per week and 9.4 per cent or $426.21 per week in Cairns.

Ms Colvin said the solution was in social housing.

“Obviously, building social housing would deliver rental properties, but rental properties that are targeted to low-income households who are the ones who are being most squeezed out of the rental market,” she said.

Ms Colvin said this would then free up rentals for people in other income brackets.

“So, it’s a really great solution that really fits the problem,” she said.

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