The housing crisis is taking its toll on Mid North Coast residents who say they are struggling to find affordable rental properties, and are having to make sacrifices to ensure they can pay their bills.
Anthony and Chloe Mahr have lived in their Wauchope rental property for two weeks and are paying $450 a week.
Anthony is blind and Chloe is legally blind.
"I've also got a physical disability, so I'm wheelchair bound on and off," Mrs Mahr said.
"We both have accessibility issues and needs."
The couple say it was a challenge to find their current property, given affordability issues and accessibility requirements.
The Mahrs were given just 90 days to vacant their last rental property, as the owners wanted to renovate.
They said they were lucky to secure their current rental, given there were 10 other applicants for the property.
"We looked at eight different properties and the prices pushed us out of looking at Port Macquarie and into Wauchope," Mr Mahr said.
The couple get financial support through the private rental subsidy, as well as rental assistance through Centrelink.
They've been on the waiting list for housing since 2006.
The couple have to budget carefully, due to the weekly rental price.
"We're lucky if we've got $500 left (after paying rent) to last us a fortnight," Mr Mahr said.
That money has to go towards food, electricity, bills and other household costs.
The couple don't go out to restaurants, events and concerts as often as they used to.
"It's too expensive to go out," Mrs Mahr said.
If rental prices continue to rise, the Mahrs will be forced to move further away or share a property with others.
According to REA Group, in the Port Macquarie-Hastings, the median price of a property has increased by 28 per cent over the last 12 months, above the 21 per cent seen in Greater Sydney.
Rent growth has also been stronger, up 13 per cent in Port Macquarie versus two per cent in Greater Sydney.
The Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) visited Port Macquarie on Thursday, May 5 to brief industry representatives and business people on the state of the market and what the future holds.
"Between the pandemic, recent natural disasters, prevailing affordability concerns, a critical lack of rental accommodation and a shortage or properties to buy, many regional markets across New South Wales find themselves on a knife-edge," REINSW CEO Tim McKibbin said.
"Real estate plays a critical role in propping up the state's economic health, more than any other industry, and for this to continue, there are several critical issues which must be addressed.
"Everyone deserves a roof over their head but the housing crisis requires coordination from governments at all levels."
Business NSW regional manager Kellon Beard said the Mid North Coast is still being impacted by a housing affordability crisis.
"If you look at the cost of the rentals compared to income, particularly for public servants including nurses and police, it becomes unaffordable for them on a basic wage to afford a rental property in a lot of the suburbs on the Mid North Coast," he said.
Mr Beard is calling on all levels of government to address a number of issues to alleviate the housing crisis.
"It's not just a simple fix," he said.
Mr Beard said the housing crisis is having a detrimental impact on the Mid North Coast.
"It's stopping people from moving to the area because they can't find accommodation in order to start their new job," he said.
The high rental prices are also impacting on the local economy.
"High rental prices are taking away from people's discretionary spend which supports a lot of businesses with the hospitality and tourism area," Mr Beard said.
Percival Property principal Michael Percival said there are more properties available to rent but the prices haven't come down.
"The (price) increases have stopped so it's plateauing off," he said.
However, Mr Percival said he doesn't know if the upcoming federal election is having an influence on the market.
Mr Percival noted the rental prices are still very high and wages haven't risen to match the increase.
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