Western Australia is in the throes of a rental crisis and, with a limited supply of homes and skyrocketing prices, regional cities are being hit hard.

In an unexpected turn of events, a suburb of the small tourist town of Broome in the Kimberley region of the state topped the country with the highest percentage of rent growth in the past year, according to data from Corelogic.

Bilingurr, known locally as Broome North, has grown 38% in one year, with a median weekly rental value of $ 887.

The suburbs of Broome, Cable Beach, Djugan and Old Broome were also in the top 10, along with the small town of Kimberley, Derby, which was in 10th place with a 28% increase in rental prices.

Families hard hit by the rental crisis

Uweinna Albert says she might have moved into a trailer with her partner and 8 month old son. (ABC Kimberley: Madison Snow )

The impacts see people like Broome, mother of three, Uweinna Albert, struggling to find an affordable home for her family.

Ms Albert has been on half-pay maternity leave from her job at Notre Dame University for the past nine months, making price increases even more difficult.

She and her partner are due to vacate their small unit in a few weeks, and they still have not been able to secure a property that meets their needs.

The rental situation has already divided Ms Albert’s family and could do so further if she cannot find suitable accommodation before the end of the year.

Forced to live in a van

A woman in a trailer with her dog.
Angie Reid lived in a van with her dog for most of 2021. (ABC Kimberley: Andrew Seabourne )

Dr Angie Reid moved to Broome two years ago to work for the Ngururrpa Rangers Indigenous Protected Area and until recently lived in a van with her dog for most of that year.

She said the fierce competition was causing bidding wars, resulting in even higher prices.

“It turned out that there were a lot of people bidding on the rate and I was only really applying for places I could afford, so I couldn’t increase what I could offer,” he said. she declared.

She said the viewings were filled with people willing to live in unwanted life situations due to limited options.

“In smaller units, four people would be looking to live there together, which allows them to jack up the price that much,” Dr. Reid said.

A woman and her baby.
Broome resident Uweinna Albert says her children are stressed by the uncertainty. (ABC Kimberley: Madison Snow)

“There are people who have taken houses that they wouldn’t even have thought of taking a year ago, just out of desperation.”

Cheaper to rent in Sydney

Corelogic’s head of research, Tim Lawless, said rental prices in the Washington state area were competitive with capitals across the country.

“Some of the weirder rental markets in the Washington state area, like Broome, typically increase rents by around $ 700 per week,” Lawless said.

There are currently around 30 properties for rent in Broome and the market is competitive with people flocking to the city for a change of lifestyle and work.

A drone shot of four pelicans landing on the blue water beside the Red Cliffs of Broome.
Broome is an iconic Australian tourist destination, making it an attractive place for a radical change. (ABC Open contributor Ally.photog)

While there are very few properties for rent in Broome, there are hundreds for sale as owners seek to take advantage of rising house prices.

Demand for housing in regional cities

Mr Lawless said the ability to work from home during the pandemic has seen people migrate to regions as demand increases in markets offering lifestyle benefits.

“Broome is a really good example of that, or the areas around the Sunshine Coast in Queensland or the Gold Coast, or Byron Bay in New South Wales,” he said.

“All of these markets are experiencing very strong rental demand in a context of extremely tight supply levels with vacancy rates generally below the 1% mark.

Mr Lawless said delays in the construction industry caused by shortages of materials and labor mean the situation will not improve anytime soon.

“Potentially, once interstate borders open, we might even see increased demand return to the Western Australian rental market, which would increase rental pressures. “