blog 171230 boardinghouses

We all hope and aspire to live in a home of our choosing. To be able to feel safe and comfortable in our own space. To have our own kitchen to cook the food we like, or use our own bathroom in privacy. Yet, sometimes life can throw us a bit of a ‘curve ball’ compromising our living situation.

Secure and stable housing is important to everyone, especially people living with HIV. For people living with HIV a compromised housing situation or even homelessness can impact our physical health and quality of life. In turn this can reduce our ability to maintain a healthy routine like taking daily medication and regular medical appointments and even lead to higher rates of anxiety and depression compared with the general population.

When we’re looking around for temporary or transitional types of accommodation, one option can be a boarding house. “Yikes!” I hear you say. “No way in hell” says another.

Before you come at me with pitchforks and torches, let’s take some time and explore the boarding house as a viable option that can work for you as a short-term solution while you wait for your next home. With the lack of affordable housing options and an ever growing wait list for social housing, a safe and secure licensed boarding house may be just the answer for some people living with HIV as a short-term transitional housing option until you can find something else or while you wait for a home you’ve been allocated.

While Boarding Houses became popular after World War II, they have declined over recent years. A boarding house provides residents accommodation for a fee. This accommodation usually consists of a room and a shared kitchen and/or bathroom facilities. Some boarding house options provide a small kitchenette included in the room. Basically boarding houses provide a cheap accommodation option which is affordable, even on the Newstart Allowance…

Today, local councils have the responsibility of inspecting and enforcing safety and accommodation standards for licensed boarding houses. Licensed boarding houses are covered by government legislation while an unlicensed (or unregistered) boarding house offers little regulation or protection for the lodgers or the community where it’s located.

It’s not all sunshine and roses, right? There are horror stories of dark and damp rooms, cockroach infested shared kitchens and tinea riddled bathrooms. Unlike a Stephen King novel, these stories can be true.

The best advice to avoid the ‘shockers’ is to view the boarding house accommodation before making any commitment. You have the right to view and inspect all living areas, the room on offer and any shared spaces you can use before signing a lease. The ‘white glove’ test is probably a little extreme but if you are inspecting a boarding house as a potential option, check it out thoroughly. You don’t want to find yourself signed up to something you didn’t fully see.

The Newtown Neighbourhood Centre runs a great Boarding House Outreach Service to assist both residents in boarding houses and the owners and operators. They can provide a range of services to boarding house residents and access to resources for the owners/operators.

Your local Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service is also a great resource if you need to know where you stand as a lodger in a Boarding House or a renting in a standard rental property.

If you need any support to brainstorm your housing options, fill out an application or even look at a Boarding House property, Positive Life has peer navigators (who are living with HIV themselves) to listen and work out ways you can find what you’re looking for. Call Positive Life on (02) 8357 8386, 1800 245 677 (freecall) or email

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