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Start-up easing affordable housing search for tenants

As Sydney’s housing prices soar and rental rates rise, finding rental homes within budget is becoming increasingly difficult. Not just for people in dire straits, such as people out of work or battling the poverty line – now, also for people who have a good job and a decent income, like essential workers, or people working in retail and hospitality.

Suddenly, finding a “normal” apartment on a “normal” income is inexplicably hard.

Astoundingly, there are vacant affordable properties in Sydney, even as demand surges – partly due to lack of public awareness of what “affordable housing” is. It’s a class of housing with rent 20 to 25 per cent lower than the standard market rate, mainly provided by community housing providers for people on low to moderate incomes – unlike social housing, which is generally provided by the government for people on very low incomes, often on the brink of homelessness.

Even for those who are aware of (and eligible for) affordable housing, tenants often have a long and frustrating road to finding a home.

In response to this problem, Australian start-up WelcomeMat has been created, in collaboration with peak industry bodies and community housing providers. The online platform matches a tenant’s application to rental homes for which they are eligible, replacing the older, slower system of a tenant making an individual application directly to each housing provider.

“Many Australians struggle with the burden of applying to many different properties in their search for an affordable rental home, slowing down the system despite staggering demand in Sydney,” said Mark Khoo, Co-founder and CEO of WelcomeMat.

“WelcomeMat is helping relieve the stress and frustration that tenants often face in their housing search. Digitally streamlining the process is speeding it up significantly, and helping create a more equitable housing system. Everyone deserves to find the right home for themselves and their family.”

Seung Hoon Ha is grateful to WelcomeMat for assistance. “Because my work and uni commitments are in the CBD, it was difficult for me to find a property within my budget without a long commute; in the private rental market, it was almost impossible. Through WelcomeMat, I did a quick search for affordable rental properties, and before long I was in a new home that’s much cheaper than most apartments in the area. It also means I have more time to focus on my personal life, having cut out hours each day that I previously spent on my long commute to and from Western Sydney.”

Rose Thomson, CEO of Churches Housing Inc., the peak body representing faith-based providers of affordable housing in NSW, says access to safe and secure housing is a basic human right. “The significance of a secure place to live for human dignity, physical and mental health, and overall quality of life, is critical. We’re delighted to work with WelcomeMat to address this problem and help Australians to quickly and easily find an affordable home.”

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