Wagga's rental crisis could be pushing residents towards an increased risk of homelessness.
Community service provider VERTO has seen a spike in Wagga residents accessing their housing and tenancy services, and of more than 350 who have reached out in the past six months, they estimate one-third are at risk of homelessness.
"VERTO has seen a marked increase in the number of individuals and families requiring our tenancy support," CEO Ron Maxwell said.
"In regional areas in the current climate, a lack of supply means that if you are evicted, you often have no other place to go."
The hike in homeless risk comes as no surprise to president of Wagga Central's St Vincent de Paul Society Peter Burgess who describes Wagga's housing situation as a '"crisis".
"It's a concern in Wagga, I think there's very real signs that homelessness could increase," Mr Burgess said.
"Absolutely we're noticing more people coming in on the edge of homelessness or putting all their money into rental."
Vacancy in Wagga's rental market recently hit a 15-year low of 0.6 per cent in February 2021, with prices peaking and availability minimal.
"There's greater pressure on the rental market and people who might've been able to find a house previously can't," Mr Burgess said.
Meanwhile, government social housing remains under strain with more than 400 applicants currently on the waiting list in Wagga, and community housing is similarly stretched, meaning options are drying up fast.
Wagga City councillor Dan Hayes has requested a report into housing affordability in the city to plan for years ahead, but said in when it comes to the immediate problem there are few easy solutions.
"There's no quick fix, because currently we don't have an affordable housing plan in Wagga," Mr Hayes said.
He added that a lack of this kind of foresight and planning in the past is a huge contributor to the current issue.
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"We need long term so we don't find ourselves in this position again because the community has now being caught out," he said.
Where people will go is of real concern, with Mr Burgess saying what 'homelessness' really looks like can be very different to the image many carry in their minds.
People often end up couch surfing, sleeping in cars or camping at grounds like Wilks Park, where many of the city's homeless reside on crown land adjacent to the official camping ground in semi-permanent caravans and tents.
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Long-term resident of the grounds surrounding Wilks Park Robert Hardwick has been in the park since October 2019 and he has yet to see many new faces arriving, but isn't surprised people are unable to find a house.
He said the availability and price of housing in Wagga makes it preferable for him to live in his campervan, than spend more than half his pension on rent.
Mr Burgess said people he sees who are some of the most at risk are those who do indeed end up spending more than half their income trying to hang onto a roof over their heads, something the price hike is doing little to prevent.
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