For three weeks Kien Hannah and her family made a little cluster of mattresses and cuddly toys their home.
Unable to find a landlord or real estate agent willing to take them on as tenants, the 30-year-old, her partner, and their two little girls moved from place to place and tried to stay positive.
‘Ocea kept asking “Do I have a bed, Mummy?”,’ Ms Hannah says of her cherubic three-year-old.
‘I think she missed that security of having a place that was hers.’
Finally, after months of trawling through real estate listings, they found a house to rent in Mullumbimby just a stone’s throw from where their old house had been.
‘I am just so relieved that finally we’ve got somewhere, you know?’ Ms Hannah says.
The local mum is just one of hundreds struggling to find a home in the Byron Shire as soaring rents and inadequate housing supply force thousands into hardship and, in some cases, homelessness.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
As locals try desperately to squeeze into the painfully tight rental market, thousands of bedrooms and whole houses across the shire that could be used as homes lie empty.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that there were 2,057 empty dwellings in the Byron Shire on census night.
That’s 15.3 per cent of the region’s housing.
A further 2,300 dwellings are being underused, with one or two people living in a house that has two, three or four unoccupied bedrooms.
The statistics, from the 2016 Census, also show that the average number of people per household in Byron is 13 per cent smaller than the national average and that we have…
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