The beginning of the cooler months coincides with more bad news for renters as residential vacancy rates in Sydney fall to record lows, according to the latest figures from the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales (REINSW).

In March, the overall vacancy rate for the Sydney metropolitan area was 0.8 percent, falling to 0.7 percent in suburbs more than 10 kilometres out from the CBD such as Canterbury, Strathfield and Willoughby.

In other words, just seven out of every 1,000 rental properties is available for rent.

Vacancy rates in the city have been under two percent -“ the benchmark figure that denotes a tight rental market -“ for over 18 months now, giving would-be renters little to choose from and those already in rental accommodation few options should they wish to move.

These figures come at a time when renters are already facing hefty rent increases due to the severe shortage of supply. In the past 12 months the median rent for a unit in Sydney climbed 10 percent and 11 percent for houses.

A recent report by analysts BIS Shrapnel predicted the situation would continue to worsen with Sydney’s rents forecast to rise another 50 percent over the next four years.

The March vacancy rate figures come as no surprise, REINSW president Steve Martin said.

We know from our property managers that they have virtually no vacant properties on their books.

We feel a great deal of sympathy for people out there looking for somewhere to rent in a market which has literally dried up. The fact is that when a property does become available there are queues of people lining up to see it.

Our member agents don’t even need to advertise places as they have backlogs of people waiting to hear about any vacancy that might come up.

The situation has all sorts of potential repercussions and is becoming a social issue. We have been asking the NSW Government to come up with answers ever since the vacancy rates started to fall back in 2006.

We believe tax relief for property investors would help alleviate matters, but not enough has ever been done.

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