Rental crisis in Tasmania forcing more into permanent spots in caravan parks

When Rowen and Leanne Carter opened their caravan park in Tasmania’s Huon Valley 10 years ago, they decided it would be purely for tourists, with no long-term spots.

Less than five years later, Tasmania’s housing crisis came knocking at their door—in the form of a desperate single mother.

“She was quite upset,” Mr Carter said.

“She’d been renting the same house for many, many years and her lease was coming up and they were going to increase the cost of her rent and she found herself homeless with a seven-year-old child.”

The Carters “slipped into action” and found a permanent spot for her at their park.

Five years later, there are 14 permanent spots at the park and a growing waitlist.

“We’ve got six people on the waiting list that are looking for something.

“I don’t know where they’re staying in the time but we have the phone numbers of six people that want something as soon as it becomes available.”

On-site vans at a caravan park.
There are 14 permanent spots and 16 permanent residents at the Huon Valley caravan park.(ABC News: Lucy MacDonald)

On top of that, they have had people asking if they could permanently camp at the park.

“We’ve had quite a few people find themselves homeless and living in tents and wanting to come and stay with us,” Mr Carter said.

“Unfortunately, we say, ‘You’ll have to go somewhere else’, [and] because in southern Tasmania, with this weather, it always ends up in tears and we just can’t handle seeing that sort of a disaster unfold around us.

“The same goes for larger families.”

Empty sites and vans at a caravan park.
Six people are on the waitlist looking for a permanent spot.(ABC News: Lucy MacDonald)

The Carters have a policy of not kicking people out and they do not hike up the rent, giving their tenants stability.

Mr Carter said when people did get to the park, they realized there was a “great sense of community”.

“There’s always somebody to look after them and keep an eye on them,” he said.

Every tenant at the Carters’ caravan park has a different story behind how they ended up there.

Some are there by choice; others felt like they had no other option.

Cheryl and Gary

Cheryl and Gary Clift at the Huon Valley caravan park.
Cheryl and Gary Clift tried to find an affordable rental for two years. (ABC News: Lucy MacDonald)

After caravanning around Australia for four years, Cheryl and Gary Clift decided to settle in Tasmania’s Huon Valley to be closer to family.

When they began to look for a rental, they struggled to find anything within their budget.

“Unfortunately, the availability was very scarce. Financially it would’ve been a bit of a struggle, and it’s only got worse since,” Gary said.

The pair found themselves at the Carters’ caravan park but continued their search for an affordable rental. After two years they gave up.

“It was awful. Because we knew we couldn’t afford it on our pensions,” Ms Clift said.

The pair love the park and its sense of community. They, like every other tenant, speak highly of owners Rowen and Leanne, but they are uneasy at the idea that they have no other option.

“If we had to move out of here now, it would be a major issue. Trying to find somewhere to start with and then trying to afford it, we’d have to go without other things to pay rent.”

Leah and Emma

Leah and Emma at a caravan park.
Leah Jones says calling the caravan park after being forced out of her rental house was another low point.(ABC News: Lucy MacDonald)

Leah Jones and her eight-year-old daughter Emma have lived at the Huonville caravan park for almost 10 months.

The pair were forced to move out of their home for almost seven years after their rental was sold.

“It was heartbreaking. I still think about it now and get upset,” Ms Jones said.

“It wasn’t just a house to me, it was a home. I lost my home.”

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