Caravan park closures leave pensioners scrambling for affordable homes

By James Hancock on ABC News Breakfast

Peter Morris and Wayne Iremonger are among the latest facing an uncertain future, and time is running out for the neighbours.

The pensioners are living at the Capel Caravan Park, south of Melbourne, which is set to close in at least a year.

Mr Iremonger has looked around and more than 20 other caravan parks in the area are full.

“There’s nowhere for us to go,” he said.

Image The clock is ticking for Mr Iremonger and Mr Morris.(ABC News: James Hancock)

The men rely on the age pension of a little over $400 a week, and through divorce and unfortunate financial circumstances their situation has become dire.

“I just couldn’t afford anywhere else,” Mr Morris said.

Three years ago, Mr Morris found a home he could afford.

The former cabinet maker spent $12,000 doing up a rundown caravan. It now costs him about $120 a week to lease a powered site at the park.

Image The Capel Caravan Park is home to more than 100 people.(ABC News: James Hancock)

But with its closure looming, Mr Morris said about 130 other permanent residents were looking for another place to live.

“It’s terrible,” he said.

“Everyone there is in the same boat, there’s people depressed there.”

In December last year, residents got a letter from the caravan park operator saying it had been sold and they had a “minimum of a further two years” to live at the park.

“Future plans for the park” are being considered, the letter said.

The park manager declined to comment on the closure.

The clock is now ticking for residents to be out by next Christmas.

“There’s a developer that’s bought it,” Mr Iremonger said.

“He wants to develop it into a village, a retirement village.”

A village the retired 67-year-old cannot afford to buy into.

“When you get a pension … there’s not a lot of options for you.”

‘Hundreds being turfed out around the country’

What is happening in Victoria is just a small example of a much bigger issue.

Homelessness is on the rise nationally, and it will come as no surprise that a lack of affordable housing is part of the problem.

With property prices soaring in recent years, more people are competing for a shrinking pool of cheaper rentals.

The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) warns affordable options are drying up.

“We’re seeing hundreds and hundreds of people turfed out of caravan parks, rooming houses, other marginal accommodation every year,” CHP CEO Jenny Smith said.

On the Mornington Peninsula, the council’s analysis shows pensioners could not afford to rent a one-bedroom property.

That is bad news for Mr Iremonger and Mr Morris.

Image Mr Iremonger wants public land available for housing.(ABC News: James Hancock)

Making matters worse, Ms Smith said at least six caravan parks have recently closed in Victoria, with each one sheltering up to 200 people.

The solution, in Mr Iremonger’s eyes, is for government to make public land available for affordable housing.

He has suggested several local sites the council has rejected as “not suitable”.

The Victorian Government says it can’t do anything either because it is in caretaker mode ahead of the state election.

In the bigger picture, Ms Smith recommends a swag of changes, including scrapping investor tax breaks.

“So that we’re not making housing a commodity — we don’t think of it as shelter anymore,” she said.

In the meantime, Mr Morris has signed up for public housing.

The wait will likely be long, with more than 80,000 people on the list.


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