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Rent gold rush, but tenants feel squeeze  

Credit:  Peter Collins, The Standard, www.standard.net.au 5 March 2011 ~~

Locals are being priced out of Port Fairy’s housing rental market as workers on the $1 billion Macarthur wind farm project move in on generous allowances.

Three-bedroom houses that last year were being rented out for about $300 a week are now fetching up to $600 a week.

Holiday homes are also being brought into the rental pool to cater for the new demand which is expected to last for several years as other planned new energy projects take shape in the district.

AGL, which is jointly developing the Macarthur project with Meridian Energy plus a smaller wind farm at Glenthompson, told The Standard this week between 60 and 180 workers would require local district rental and motel accommodation during construction of the wind farms.

However, the boom has yet to hit Macarthur where landlords are still waiting for the expected influx to revive the tiny town.

Longtime Port Fairy real estate agent Garry Lockett said the influx started just before Christmas.

“It’s good for landlords, but not so good for local tenants,” he said.

“Contractors are taking out 12-month leases at $25,000 for a standard three-bedroom house to $35,000 for four bedrooms.

“They are offering at least $50 to $100 a week above what the locals have been paying.

“Last year on average we would have had three to four vacancies a week, now this demand has taken up the slack.”

One young parent told The Standard this week she was contemplating moving from her home town because of the rental squeeze.

“It’s gone to about $600 a week which has pretty much chopped out the locals,” she said.

Another Warrnambool renter complained about poor-standard accommodation coming onto the market as people were desperate to find a roof over their head.

Mr Lockett doubted if investors would be prompted to build rental accommodation in Port Fairy specifically to cater for the new demand, but investment returns on existing property would improve.

“We think the demand for rentals in Port Fairy will last much longer than it did in Timboon for the gas works,” he said.

Macarthur Advancement and Development Association secretary Merrylyn Cook said she and other business operators were still waiting for the rental boom to hit home.

“We expect it to come soon when the next stage of workers arrive,” she said.

“At our place we have a four-bedroom bed and breakfast establishment and a fully-furnished cottage.

“There are others in the town and district who also have vacant houses and cottages.

“Macarthur will benefit from the extra workers around.

“We’ve only got the cafe and pub left, but I’ve heard there is interest in opening a supermarket in town.”

Gas-fired power stations at Orford and Tarrone plus two other windfarms in the district as well as a geothermal power station near Koroit are also planned and if developed will keep the rental demand bubbling for many years.

Source:  Peter Collins, The Standard, www.standard.net.au 5 March 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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