LGBTQI+ residents in Ballarat are worried that rising property prices in the area are forcing them to rent for longer or move further away from the regional town, which has recently fostered a vibrant queer community.
Ballarat resident Sam McColl first moved to Ballarat eight years ago and said the community’s attitudes towards LGBTQI+ people have drastically changed.
“When I moved here it wasn’t a very accepting place, but the city has come leaps and bounds. The close-knit queer community in Ballarat is so amazing,” McColl.
Ten Per Cent Identify As LGBTQI+
Almost 10 per cent of Ballarat residents identify as LGBTIQA+ which accounts for over 10,000 residents and in 2017 70.5% of people living in Ballarat voted yes in the marriage equality plebiscite. The mayor of Ballarat also came out during last years local elections.
“I’m pretty privileged to have a steady average income, however that hasn’t really changed the prospect of being able to afford a house,” McColl said.
Within the last 12 months housing prices have increased rapidly in Ballarat, with some areas seeing rises up to 11%.
Property owner in Ballarat Ange Elson said she and her partner were lucky to buy a property in Ballarat before prices skyrocketed, but is still upset because a lot of their queer friends are struggling to find affordable accommodation closer to the town centre.
Struggle To Find Affordable Housing
“We did buy before everything went crazy but a lot of lesbians and queer women we know that were renting in Ballarat East are now moving out because the area has become too expensive.
“They had to move further out in order to save up, which is taking them away from the community.”
The Ballarat Council is currently putting together a new health and wellbeing plan with an area of focus on diverse and affordable housing and is working alongside the Victorian Pride Lobby to help make housing more accessible for LGBTQIA+ residents.
According to early findings in a housing survey conducted by the Victorian Pride Lobby LGBTIQA+ people in Ballarat are more likely to rent than own their own home and live in smaller homes compared to the general Ballarat population.
The survey also found 69.4% of respondents reported that they did not feel connected to their local neighbourhood.
COVID-19 Lockdowns & Isolation
Victoria Pride Lobby Policy Advisor Sean Mulcahy said these feelings of isolation have been exacerbated by LGBTQIA+ living further away from the town centre.
“It has also been exacerbated by the COVID lockdowns that have occured over the last 18 months,” Mulcahy said.
Three years ago Mulcahy and his partner bought a home in Ballarat and despite initially feeling nervous about living in a regional area for the first time Mulcahy said he has been able to fit into the community.
“When I just finished High School I was offered a place at the University of Ballarat (now Federation University). I came up to campus to have a look and I distinctly remember someone hollering out some homophobic abuse from a car.
“But when I came back I was really surprised. There is a growing queer community and accepting community as well in Ballarat which we would like to maintain.”