A critical shortage in rental properties has left a homeless single mum at her wits’ end.
Shikera Maher and her four teenage children have spent the last five weeks living in her car while they desperately search to find somewhere to live.
In that time, the Ipswich, Queensland family has been rejected almost 300 times for rental properties in the area.
Up until last month, Ms Maher and her children – aged 13, 15-year-old twins, and 18 – were living with friends for weeks at a time.
Shikera Maher (pictured) is at breaking point after living in her car with four teens for the first five weeks
But the domestic violence survivor said the constant moving was too hard given the size of the family and how most of her friends live in small houses or units.
Five weeks on, the family is emotionally and physically exhausted and distressed by the ordeal.
The family use friends’ bathrooms to take daily showers
‘I don’t wish the situation on anyone, not even my worst enemy,’ Ms Maher told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It’s not a way to live, driving from one park to another because we can’t stay in the same place.’
‘I’ve asked countless time whether it’s because my application.’
The hundreds of rejections have mostly not been explained to her. Owners and agencies just had other, preferred applicants who could pay higher rent for their properties.
The family lived in their car (pictured) after being rejected almost 300 times for rental properties in the Ipswich region
She said it’s not a lack of funds that is the problem. ‘I have the money to pay the rent and bond,’ Ms Maher said.
‘It’s a very hard situation. We have to hang blankets on the car windows at night so people don’t look in,’ she said.
‘I sleep in the driver’s seat, the 18year-old is in the front with me while the other three sleep in the back seat with all of our belongings.’
‘There are many meltdowns a day and constant fighting being stuck in the car all day.’
She estimates she’s spending $30 on fuel every day using the car’s air conditioning to keep warm at night.
Her children stopped going to school for a time because of the stress of their situation and being unable to focus on lessons.
She said her children were ‘not really coping’ and have lashed out because they were constantly in each other’s space.
Ms Maher said one of her daughters recently returned to school, but studying from the car is almost impossible.
‘Going to school is her way of coping and having some form of normality,’ she told Daily Mail Australia
The family is looking for a four-bedroom house in Ipswich, which on average costs $430 per week to rent in the area, with a bonds of around $1043.
Ms Maher is not eligible for public housing, she said, because she owes a debt she has not yet paid after one of her children, who was then aged 8, ‘smashed’ their last place provided by the department in 2012.
Ms Maher and her family are on a waiting list for crisis accommodation but are yet to secure anything.
Shikera Maher (pictured) says she and her family are at breaking point
She pleaded for landlords and real estate agents to have empathy for single parents and low income earners
‘All we want is a roof over our heads and for our family to be safe again, even if the kids have to switch schools,’ she said.
She is currently staying with friends for a few night and knocked back an offer by the housing department of temporary motel accommodation outside the region.
‘I have kids that need some stability in their lives and that is schooling,’ Ms Maher said.
Along with many other cities across Australia, rents are going up in Ipswich and its vacancy rate is at a historical low at just 0.9 per cent.
‘To put this into perspective, the REIQ (Real Estate Institute of Queensland) classifies rental markets into three categories: tight, healthy, or weak and anything between a 2.6 per cent to 3.5 per cent vacancy rate is considered a ‘healthy’ rental market, anything below 2.5 per cent is ‘tight’,’ REIQ chief executive Antonia Mercorella told the Courier Mail.
Rents are going up in Ipswich and its vacancy rate is at a historical low at just 0.9 per cent.