Liam Cormican is a journalism graduate who has taken up employment at the South Coast Register. This is part one of a series called Living Regionally.
Is it true Mr McCormack? Can I really 'live like a king' in regional Australia?
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has promoted a $4.6 million federal government campaign to get more people out of cities and into the regions. The money will be given to Regional Australia Institute, a not-for-profit think tank, in order to fill regional job vacancies.
He said many city dwellers could afford better homes in the regions.
"You could live like a king or queen in regional Australia with, you know, five bedrooms, three bathrooms, three-car garage, huge backyard - all those things at a fraction of the price that you could, living in a boxed apartment, in a terraced house or whatever, in Melbourne or Sydney," he said.
But if there is one thing I have learned in moving from Sydney to the South Coast, it is that the notion that it is more affordable to live regionally is a furphy.
In my search for a rental in NSW's Shoalhaven I've had to compete against dozens of people looking for an affordable place to stay.
Knock-back after knock-back, real estate agents have been hinting I should ask to pay more than is advertised or perhaps put up six month's rent.
I have spoken to real estate agents who have said Dutch auctions are likely occurring.
A Dutch auction is when the price of something offered is determined after taking in all bids to arrive at the highest price. It's an ethical grey area.
Fortunately, I have found a place to stay in Werri Beach but I wonder how my competition's applications are faring.
According to the Rental Affordability Index (RAI), rental markets in regional centres are constrained in the face of high demand as households move away from cities.
On the other hand, rental markets in capital cities are improving as a direct result of COVID.
The index, published by SGS Economics and Planning is an indicator of the price of rent relative to household incomes based on new rental agreements.
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The RAI assesses the rental affordability situation for 10 types of Australian households. Australia's youth and pensioners are the hardest hit according to last year's report.
A score of 100 and below on the RAI means households would be required to spend at least 30 per cent of their income on rent, while a score of 100-120 indicates households are facing moderately unaffordable rents.
In essence, the lower the number, the greater the rental stress for households in that area.
Households earning the same income as myself and renting in Werri Beach scored 61 in the second quarter of 2020, although with current market conditions, I would say that number would be lower when this year's report is released.
Households earning the same income as me in the Sydney suburb of Denistone East (which is where I lived before and is by and large an equivalent socioeconomic area as Werri Beach), scored 65 in the second quarter of 2020.
In Gerringong, Gerroa and Shoalhaven Heads, all on the NSW South Coast, there is almost a zero vacancy rate, according to my real estate agent, Deb Peters from First National Coast & Country.
"There are not enough rental properties for the amount of people looking. Now that people can work from home, they can live anywhere, so are flocking out of the city for a more relaxed lifestyle. This is having an effect on the rental prices in the area," Ms Peters said.
My full-time status was part of the reason I secured my rental, she said.
"Full time [tenants are] always preferred over casuals, as casual work can lead to times of low or no income depending on the industry you work in. Our aim is to have the rent paid every week on time as you can manage the budget better if there is stable employment."
She said her agency does not make the application process an auction, although she thinks some agencies do.