Of Mice and Mould

How the rental crisis is affecting the asylum seeker and refugee communities. April 21, 2023

Nadia, a person supported by the Asylum Seekers Centre, shared with SBS Radio last week her fears and frustrations about living in unsuitable and crowded housing with her children. 

The family has a plague of mice in their bedrooms so they must sleep in the hallway of their home. “The smell of the mice is in everything,” she says.

After three years with no maintenance on her old house in Western Sydney, Nadia is afraid to push the real estate agent for repairs. She was told she must fix it herself, and she knows it will be very hard to find another place to live.

With only casual work and a temporary visa, Nadia will struggle to find suitable housing in a very competitive rental market. Increasingly people seeking asylum are saying that higher rents are pushing them out of their homes but they cannot find anywhere else to go. “Our situation is very very bad,” says Nadia. 

In the past financial year the Asylum Seekers Centre supported 334 people with crisis housing when they became homeless. Almost one third of these people were children. This crisis housing involves the ASC paying for nights in hostels and motels to avoid immediate homelessness. However, the cost of this accommodation has tripled in the past twelve months. 

“Housing stress is now the most common reason someone is referred to our intensive support team,” says Danielle Bosley, ASC Intensive Support Manager.  

“Many people have informal or no tenancy agreements, they are sharing in overcrowded spaces, are exploited by landlords and living in very poor conditions with terrible mould and pests. The level of mental health deterioration is very high,” she says.

For people who have experienced trauma and torture, the experience of not having somewhere safe to sleep can result in frightening mental health situations. 

Many people who are living on temporary visas say they are constantly in arrears with their rent. They live in daily fear that they will be evicted from their homes. To ensure that they have somewhere to live, people seeking asylum are now choosing to spend money on rent rather than food or medications.

“It amazes me that there is no government support for people who have become homeless, even when there are children involved,” says Bosley. “If more people were eligible for a government safety net such as the SRSS program (Status Resolution Support Scheme) that would really help people to have a roof over their heads.”

Nadia best describes the situation that many people are in, “I don’t know what to do next.”

The ASC supports a YES vote for the Voice to Parliament Waseema’s story