Frankie Mayes understands the current local housing crisis more than most. Having moved back to the Bellingen Shire nine years ago, Frankie is currently residing in her ninth rental home, while urgently searching for another.
“I am craving and desperately need stability,” says Frankie.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of him/herself and their family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”
So how is it that so many in our own community are unable to secure this basic human right? This week we chatted to Frankie to get a clearer understanding of the actual issues and pressures facing so many in our community.
Frankie how tenuous is your current housing situation?
I was living with a friend and I signed this lease because I was told I could stay here for 2 years. A few months later that was reduced to a 1-year lease. My son and I have to find another home in 4 months. This may seem like a lot of time, but there are no rentals on the market, and when they do rarely pop-up, the asking price has increased by hundreds of dollars per week. This is terrifying for me and so many others I have spoken to. My anxiety about our housing just mounts as the end of our tenancy gets closer.
How bad is the current situation for those without secured housing?
It is as bad as it gets. A friend who grew up here has been staying with family for 5 months because of the lack of rentals. I know many more that are paying way more than they can afford, which changes the way they live their lives. This financial pressure places more stress on relationships. I’ve talked to friends who can’t afford the car rego and there is no chance of getting away with the kids for any sort of break. All of this just so they can stay in a town they call home.
How has the rental market changed since your return nine years ago?
It has always been a little challenging, but now I am a single mum. My personal circumstances coupled with a more expensive rental market and fewer available properties is making it near impossible to find an affordable rental. I am sure the homeless people that have been pushed out of the area, who are living in cars or tents, would also say it is impossible.
You have recently started a Facebook Page ‘Bellingen Rentals for Already Established Locals’. Can you explain why you’ve done this?
I made this page because I could see many long-term locals and established families were being pushed out of the area as owners chose to cash-in on the current demand for Bellingen property. In some cases this meant selling homes to city people with double incomes and deep pockets. I do feel like we, as a community, have a responsibility to give locals priority on the rental market, which is exactly what this page is designed to do.
It seems our little secret is out. I understand people want to move here, it’s a wonderful place to live but it doesn’t seem fair to kick the old out for the new to come. Bellingen isn’t a theme park, you don’t get to have a ride then its someone else’s turn. Singles, families have made homes here, made friends and support networks, their kids are in local schools, dance classes, therapists, they have local jobs. When they are pushed out of the area where are they supposed to go? Is it fair they have to change their whole lives and start again?
I feel sad that single mums, people with disabilities, artists and musos that make this town colourful will no longer be able to stay. Everyone wants this ‘Bello bohemian vibe,’ but the people that bring that vibe will be moved on. I believe the Bello we know, and love is changing already.
Do you have any other ideas on how this housing crisis could be solved?
I think we have to all open our hearts and maybe even our homes. We all say we love that Bellingen has this tight-knit community. It’s time to walk the walk and dig deep. I think al lot of people in this community are quite privileged and I think even for a little bit, it’s time to share your land or rent a room in your home out, to ensure locals can stay and work something else out. You could open your home up to someone that you will form a wonderful connection with, you may make a lifelong friend.
I have opened my home up to three separate teenagers that had nowhere else to go and I have learnt so much from them all. To the people who operate an Airbnb in the area I ask that you close your eyes and imagine how amazing it would feel to be the reason a local person or family gets to stay here like you do. Not all problems have solutions. But I’m so committed to trying to do something so local Bello families can find affordable & secure homes.
So do you have any other message for those who are lucky enough to have a secure home in the Bellingen Shire?
Try to really put yourselves in the more vulnerable people’s shoes right now. Housing is one of the most basic necessities in life and so many people are losing that right. Housing shouldn’t be a privilege. Try not to use toxic positivity statements like “you can manifest that” or “you’ll be right, you’ll find somewhere”. These statements seem and can feel very condescending to people living in the real fear of losing their place in this community we all love and share.
What will you do if you can’t find a secure local rental for you and your son?
Leaving here is not an option right now. I just have to have full faith that someone knows someone with a little place we can call home. My son has struggled with health issues for many years, and we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. He has been lucky enough to be offered a traineeship at Belmac- a local mechanics. This is literally a life saver for my son, so I have to stay. I am just not sure how to make that happen. You have to believe in miracles at this stage.