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Home Ground charity wants to bring free rent to Canberra

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A charitable organisation wants to find loving Canberra landlords who can offer free or subsidised properties to hard-up renters.

It could mean hundreds of dollars a week slashed from the cost of renting some of the territory's trendiest homes in locations such as Civic or the inner south of Canberra.

Former public servant Heather Holst had the idea several years and pitched it to charity organisation Home Ground Services when she applied for the job of chief executive.

She secured the job and support for the ambitious program.

"We could have fallen flat on our faces or looked like real gooses," she said.  

She established the philanthropic real estate agency in Victoria earlier this year. It now has more than 50 benevolent landlords on the books who have offered knocked-down rents across Melbourne.


A handful of homeowners have offered free rent while others have reduced the cost significantly.

An Albert Park terrace home which could have cost as much as $580 a week was rented for $300 while a two-bedroom South Yarra apartment which could have been leased for $440 a week was let for $250. 

The South Yarra home was rented to a woman in her 60s who was a low-income earner and had been couch surfing for a year. 

Dr Holst said Canberra would be the perfect market to establish an arm of the charity.

"Canberra has precisely the sort of people tuned in to housing affordability," she said. 

The charity would become a competitor to real estate agents which manage rental properties. 

Particularly because it also offers to manage rental properties at their market value.

Any management costs are put toward Home Ground's charity work. 

Australian Property Monitors data from earlier this year found the average cost of renting a unit in Canberra was $410 and a house $460.

Dr Holst, an ex-Victorian public servant who worked in the welfare sector, said the not-for-profit rental scheme could be introduced in Canberra as early as 2015. 

"There's an obvious need for this model in every state and territory across Australia," she said. 

As reported in April, a rise in vacant rental properties in Canberra had failed to provide relief for low-income earners struggling to find housing.

Researchers from Anglicare Australia found there were more than 600 extra properties on the market compared with the same period last year, but there were no affordable and appropriate rental properties for eight of the 13 low-income categories.

These included families reliant on a government allowance and single-parent households on full-time minimum wages. Less than 0.5 per cent of the properties were within the reach of families with two minimum-wage incomes.