Gut-wrenching twist after homeless woman finally puts roof over her head

Teena Keys spent her entire life savings building a tiny home on her friend's property. But now she's facing the very real possibility of being 'homeless again at 57'.

Teena Keys moved into a 'cabin' on her friend's property after struggling with homelessness for years. Now she's facing losing that home too. after being told she'd require a permit from Geelong council. Source: GoFundMe/ The Geelong Advertiser
Teena Keys moved into a 'cabin' on her friend's property after struggling with homelessness for years. Now she's facing losing that home too. after being told she'd require a permit from Geelong council. Source: GoFundMe/ The Geelong Advertiser

A woman who spent years battling homelessness but finally managed to put a roof over her head after converting a site hut into a home, said that due to her local council's "unreasonable" demand she's now facing the "realisation of being on the streets again at 57".

Geelong woman Teena Keys lost her business and fled an abusive marriage during the pandemic and as a result was forced to couch surf for three years around the state of Victoria, after being rejected from a total of 60 rental properties.

Keys says she had all but run out of options when she decided to build a tiny home on her friend's 100-acre property in Anakie, about 73 kilometres southwest of Melbourne late last year, with expressed permission.

Yahoo News Australia earlier reported that Keys spent her life savings — a little under $20,000 — renovating the cabin, and was finally feeling settled when the City of Greater Geelong council told her that she would be required to apply for a permit to remain on the property after attracting a complaint. She was given just days to comply and warned it'd be "unlikely" the permit would be approved.

Keys' home in Geelong is located on a 100-acre property owned by her friend. Source: Supplied
Keys' home in Geelong is located on a 100-acre property owned by her friend. Source: Supplied

Now, a little over two weeks since the mum began her quest to legally remain on the property, she said she's been slugged with almost $8000 worth of fees associated with a planning permit, which she can't afford. "The planning Permit is priced at $7,700, with the council still able to reject the cabin — it’s like playing Russian roulette with my life," Keys told Yahoo.

"Do I pay the $7,700 that you don’t have, just to be rejected? My cabin is still unfinished and I can’t afford to transport it off the farm, unfortunately. So now as a result, I’m unable to afford this gamble.

"With a very, very heavy heart, I’m disappointed to say that I have to complete the cabin and leave the farm within 80 days." The heartbroken 57-year-old said she has "no idea where I go from here with no savings" and that she really doesn't "know what to do" moving forward.

Teena Keys spent $19,000 renovating a site hut into a home, but now is facing having to move if her council permit is rejected. Source: Supplied
Teena Keys spent $19,000 renovating a site hut into a home, but now is facing having to move if her council permit is rejected. Source: Supplied

"I’m organising a working bee on the cabin at the start of August, so fingers crossed I can sell it or better still, find land to relocated it and finally call it home," she said. "The realisation of being on the streets at 57 is definitely kicking in."

The ordeal has been "so hard to swallow", Keys said, and it's been "really difficult" to "watch myself go through this again".

"And it's not just me, it's about all the other people who are facing similar," she said. "There are women and children sleeping in cars, there's elderly men sleeping down at the river in tents."

Keys said the increasingly dire lack of housing "is so common in our little town here in Geelong" and "it's so sad" to see. She's now urging the City of Greater Geelong to adopt a common sense approach when it comes to situations like hers, calling on the authority not to make things harder for people who finally find their own "solution" to the housing crisis.

Teena Keys is now calling on the City of Greater Geelong council not to create unnecessary hoops for Aussies to jump through just to put a roof over their heads. Source: Facebook
Teena Keys is now calling on the City of Greater Geelong council not to create unnecessary hoops for Aussies to jump through just to put a roof over their heads. Source: Facebook

"Wouldn't it be fabulous to get people off the streets and out of their cars and into small homes on properties that are otherwise often only inhabited by lonely farmers?" she said.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, City of Greater Geelong Executive Director Placemaking Tennille Bradley earlier said she "sympathised with Ms Keys’ situation" but stood firm on council's stance.

"Unfortunately, Geelong is not immune to the housing crisis that is impacting people across Australia," she said. "However, we have received complaints, as Ms Keys is currently living in a relocatable shed on a rural property, which requires both a planning permit and a building permit.

"Due to the presence of two dwellings already on the rural property, along with another habitable building, it is unlikely that a planning permit would be issued.

"We acknowledge Ms Keys’ circumstances, but these regulations are in place to ensure proper land use and safety standards. We must also respect the rights of the complainant to have their concerns addressed."

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