Bellingen town centre : ANTJE SONNTAG
Bellingen town centre : ANTJE SONNTAG

LOCALS ONLY: Rental crisis prompts dramatic response

With Bellingen’s dire rental market showing little sign of improvement, residents have resorted to creating a ‘locals only’ Facebook group to help people already established in the region find accommodation.

The ‘Bellingen Rentals – For already established locals’ group was created in response to the worsening rental crisis in the popular hinterland town so people who had already set down roots would not have to compete with those seeking to move into the area.

Advertising rentals on social media is not new, but the imposition of strict rules – complete with a series of screening questions – marks a new chapter in attempts to deal with the crisis.

According to the group, to be ‘established’ a person must have lived in the Bellingen area for a year or longer, must work there, have family there or have kids who attend school in the region.

“This page is for desperate locals looking for somewhere to live so they can stay in the town they have created a life in,” the groups states.

“Admin will suss out whether you are already established in the area. Thank you for your understanding in this stressful housing shortage crisis.”

The group has already reached 340 members.

A combination of factors has contributed to the dearth of rental properties including an increase in the number of people choosing regional areas over metropolitan centres.

It’s a trend which accelerated during the pandemic.

Senior property manager Cassie Gilmore at Cardow and Partners Bellingen acknowledged the “massive” rental shortage and said while properties were popping up “here and there”, they were quickly being snapped up by one of the 20-25 approved applicants on file in their offices.

And Ms Gilmore said the situation wasn’t just taking a toll on those desperate to find properties, with many in the real estate industry also finding it hard to “switch off” from the crisis.

“Being a small town we do take it hard as well, it’s hard for us to turn local families away,” she said.

“We are constantly trying to find new leads for property. There are people without homes out there and we just can't give them anything unfortunately.”

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