A trial of free recreational vehicle parking revealed the biggest user was a family of five unable to find permanent accommodation living in a van, highlighting the ongoing housing crisis gripping the South West. Shire of Harvey rangers made the discovery after the family had made 34 bookings in the first six months of the councils 48-hour free stay options trial for recreational vehicles. The family’s plight was highlighted in a recent interim report to council at the mid-point of the 12-month trial, which was designed to help position the shire as RV friendly and attract visitors to the region. Under the pilot program, users are limited to stays of only 48 hours, must be self-contained within their vehicles and are not allowed to return to the same site for five days. The family made bookings equivalent to five stays every four weeks, with rangers finding they were living full-time in their van and moving around the shire because were unable to find permanent accommodation. It comes amid the release of the annual National Shelter - SGS Economics and Planning Rental Affordability Index report last week, which found rental affordability in Australind’s 6233 postcode had decreased over the past year. The area was downgraded from ‘acceptable’ to ‘moderately unaffordable’ in the 12 months to June, meaning renters are now on average paying more than 25 per cent of their income towards rent. The 6233 postcode is less affordable for renters than those covering Bunbury (6230) and Eaton (6232). Further north, rental affordability in the Shire of Waroona (6215) remained stable. National Shelter chief executive Emma Greenhalgh said the situation across the country was getting worse. “In the past year renters have been smashed with enormous rent hikes well beyond income growth,” she said. “With vacancy rates so incredibly low, landlords have been able to pass on interest rate rises to tenants and the pressure is only set to increase following (this month’s) rate rise. “More households in our cities and our regions are in rental stress and many areas are the most unaffordable they have ever been.” Data from the Real Estate Institute of WA shows the Bunbury area’s rental vacancy rate was 2.2 per cent in October, a slight increase from the same time last year.