At her age, Sally Keay didn't expect to be facing homelessness.
But that was the position she found herself in earlier this year when she received a 90-day termination notice just nine months into the rental agreement on her home.
Her house had been purchased by NSW Health for accommodation following demolition of the hospital's nurses' quarters.
Existing on a Newstart allowance and other government support totaling $650 a fortnight, Ms Keay said she found it nigh impossible to find an affordable house to rent in Goulburn. Arthritis and osteoarthritis also hindered her ability to search for a replacement.
That's when Anglicare and Argyle Housing stepped in. With days to spare before being rendered homeless, they found her an affordable unit that left her with more money to spend on food and bills. Previously, she only had $130 a fortnight left over for these necessities.
"They've just been fantastic," Ms Keay said of the two agencies.
"..(Now) I feel like I have so much more freedom and I'm not behind in my bills all the time...I don't have to plead to get extra food and I have so much more independence."
Ms Keay's case is not uncommon in Goulburn, says Anglicare's regional manager for housing and social services, Tony Reay.
The agency has just released its annual Rental Affordability Snapshot, which Ms Reay says revealed continued strain for low income families in Goulburn.
"Our housing service is seeing increasing numbers of people seeking assistance," she said.
"Often this strain is caused by family breakdown, domestic violence, unemployment, health issues and disability, leaving some people to have to choose between whether to buy groceries or pay rent."
The snapshot looked at 79 properties advertised for rent in the Goulburn region on Saturday, March 23 in terms of affordability, size and appropriateness.
It found there were no affordable properties for a couple and two young children on the Newstart allowance; none for a single person with two young children and receiving a single parenting payment; five for a couple without children and receiving an aged pension; and one for a single parent and one child on a single parent allowance. There were also no affordable houses for singles on the age pension, Newstart allowance, those receiving the youth allowance and for singles aged over 21 in receipt of the disability support pension.
The news was slightly better for couples with two young children on a minimum wage and receiving Family Tax Benefit A. There were 49 homes available, compared to 42 the year before.
Anglicare defines affordability as spending no more than 30 per cent of one's income on rent, in line with the national benchmark.
Ms Reay says more public housing is desperately needed in Goulburn.
Currently, NSW Housing has a five to 10-year waiting list locally and an 18-month wait for priority accommodation.
Argyle Housing, a not-for-profit organisation securing low-cost accommodation, has plugged some of this gap in recent years. It is able to subsidise people's rent, courtesy of government funding. It came to the rescue in Ms Keay's case but she firstly had to be on NSW Housing's priority list.
"I'm not surprised by the (Snapshot's) findings," Ms Reay said.
"We have less and less affordable properties nationally, but particularly in Goulburn...We don't have enough houses to meet demand."
Likewise, Ms Reay believed more subsidised providers like Argyle Housing were needed. She described it as a state and federal issue.
Last year, Anglicare assisted 550 people in Goulburn and immediate district, including children and young families.
"That number has definitely jumped on the year before. It is really tough for people...," she said.
Goulburn Mulwaree's growth was feeding into higher rents and contracted workers on construction and other sites were leasing houses. While this was great for the economy, it posed challenges for those on lower incomes, Ms Reay said.
Case worker Ivan Wilson says the Snapshot reflects the overall picture. Anglicare accesses rental lists weekly.
"Last Monday there were 19 properties available for under $350/week but only three for less than $250/week," he said.
The Snapshot has shown no improvement in accommodation prospects for low income earners over several years, Anglicare argued. It is highlighting the issue to governments through the 'Everybody's Home' campaign.
Meantime, Ms Keay simply counts herself lucky someone could help her.
"If not, I would have been in a worse state. I was at rock bottom," she said.
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