Four clever ways to beat the rental crunch

When Bernard moved to Australia as a student in his early thirties, he was put off by the competitive and expensive rental market.

He wanted to live with “a family to learn more about the local culture”.

“It was better to live with a local family,” Bernard, who is originally from China, told The New Daily.

“You can have a familiar home environment. [My home share partner] Margaret is like my grandma. She feels like family.”

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After six years home sharing with him in Melbourne’s East, Margaret says “the very kind and very easy to live with” Bernard has his own bedroom and bathroom in the house and they “meet in the middle to chat”.


For some, a dream rental isn’t an option, so what are the alternatives? Photo: Shutterstock

Bernard says he’s been through job difficulties and changes in university courses, but having the constant of home life with Margaret meant affordable housing was one thing he’s never had to worry about.

Anglicare’s 2015 Rental Affordability snapshot found low incomes and government benefits in Australia are “insufficient to cover costs in the Australian rental market”.

“Affordable housing is an issue none of us can afford to ignore,” the report said.

“It is a strained environment, the housing sector at the moment.”

In addition, with house prices so high there are a large number of people looking to rent.

This intense competition for housing near jobs, schools and universities isn’t helped by governments who aren’t releasing enough land to develop.

Given these circumstances, we thought we’d look at some of the ways Australians are beating the rental crunch.

Old property guardians

Imagine living in an old police station, a disused warehouse – or in one UK case – a big church hall with no congregation.

Being a ‘property guardian’ is the housing trend for people who want flexibility, low rent and a little bit of a difference in their living options and it’s taken Europe by storm.

‘Guardian renting firms’ in Europe have to ensure buildings are fitted with kitchens and bathrooms, while renters responsibilities vary from keeping the property in good shape, contributing some insurance or paying a deposit.

For building owners who can’t find traditional tenants and for professionals or students who can’t afford to rent houses or apartments, this new twist on disused property could be a great option for Australia.

As far as we know there is nothing like this in Australia – yet.


When home-owners go on holiday or spend time away from their house, they like to feel that their property is safe. To this end, many employ the services of a house-sitter – someone who will live in their home for free.

It is free and suitable for those who love flexibility.

In Australia, websites like Aussie House Sitters and House Carers ensure safety by making sitters get a profile after police checks and references.

Couch surfing


Couch surfing was once the domain of backpackers but it’s not a real housing option for many. Photo: Getty

Couch surfing (the art of sleeping on someone’s couch), rose to popularity as a way for backpackers to get a more authentic travel experience while roaming the world.

It quickly developed into a real option for those needing a place to live, with its own website and dedicated section on Gumtree.

It’s flexible too – some couch surfing is free, sometimes it incurs a charge.

Some involves a swap arrangement and others require labour or help as payment.

It’s best as a short-term option, but you want to find out a little bit more about couch surfing, check out these pieces.

There have been cases where couch surfing has gone wrong, so if you’re contemplating couch surfing, make sure you stay safe and conduct the necessary checks.

Mature-age house share

This is the way Bernard and Margaret (above) have chosen to live – it’s an arrangement that suits them both.

Students and young professionals get cheap or free rent and at the same time provide company and care for elderly home owners.

The scheme has been utilised in Victoria successfully and there is currently a proposal from Youth Action in NSW before the state’s government to pilot a similar program to the Victorian one, which they say is newer and improved.


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