A Wagga mum was close to despair after it took her more than a year to secure a home in Wagga's tightest rental market in decades.
Kathleen Heritage is mum to Milli, 14, and Blake, 11, and when she started looking for a new rental in June 2020 she never expected to wait 12 months to find a house.
A single mum and in the midst of a dispute with her landlord over a broken heater, a dispute that has since been resolved, Ms Heritage said in Wagga's crisis market, her less than ideal application didn't stand a chance.
"[In a normal market] with those marks we could have gotten a house, but there were no houses available," Ms Heritage said.
LJ Hooker's Marney Sparks, who eventually found the family a new rental last month, said rental competition is so fierce in Wagga that people with any complications, be it pets or low income, are likely to miss out.
- READ MORE: Vaccination target still key to normality
"Landlords are far more picky," Ms Sparks said. "Before COVID we would have three or four applications per household so we would be deep diving into each one. Now we're getting 30 applications per property and it's a yay or nay situation."
Wagga's rental vacancies hit a low of 0.6 per cent in May this year, with most homes snapped up as soon as they hit the market.
After months of futile applications, Ms Heritage was forced to move herself and the children into the home of an acquaintance. The three of them did not feel at home, but they had no choice but to stay.
"It was the worst, I felt like I let the kids down as a mum," she said. "I kept telling them I was sorry. I was desolate, it felt like a kick in the teeth."
IN OTHER NEWS
"I don't have family in Wagga, I don't have people I can really lean on and to have all of that hanging on your shoulder as a single parent ...".
Even once the family cleared up their rental dispute with the real estate agent and were able to remove the mark from their name, it took months to land a rental. Teenager Milli even pitched in from the schoolyard. "I had notifications on my phone for houses for rent and I would do applications at school and then tell mum when I got home," the 14-year-old said. "We applied for hundreds of homes, I'm not even exaggerating."
Ms Sparks remembers the day Ms Heritage reached out to her for a rental and said, sadly, that call was all too familiar. "It happens quite often," she said. "Every day I get a call on my leasing phone that someone is desperate and needs something straight away. It is heartbreaking and it's definitely not uncommon."
Today, the family has finally settled into a small house in the suburbs, and Milli and Blake are enjoying a space to call home.