HOUSING stress in the Hunter is through the roof, with new figures showing more regional renters and mortgagees feeling the pinch than the state average.

The Australians for Affordable Housing figures show large numbers of Hunter households are paying more than 30per cent of their income to keep a roof over their heads.

The region’s stress rates are well above the state averages for mortgagees (12per cent) and renters (27per cent).

Great Lakes renters are feeling the worst stress, with 53per cent handing more than a third of their income to the landlord.

The rate in the private rental sector is higher than anything in Sydney, two points clear of the state capital’s most stressed suburb, Fairfield (51per cent).

Singleton (25per cent) was the only Hunter area below the state benchmark.

Affordable Housing’s campaign manager Sarah Toohey said the difference between Great Lakes and Singleton was income, with a larger proportion of low-income earners in Great Lakes compared with the mining-driven Upper Hunter township.

Ms Toohey said residents migrating from Sydney had created a demand for more homes in the Hunter but supply was failing to keep up.

Mortgagee stress rates fare little better, with Newcastle (15per cent) the closest the Hunter comes to the 12per cent NSW average.

Great Lakes and Gloucester are the Hunter’s two most stressed areas for mortgagees.

Benevolent Society Hunter and Central Coast manager Helen Keevers said homelessness had become the number one reason families were contacting the society’s Hunter Family Referral Service.

‘‘Many of the families seeking our help have never needed to access welfare before,’’ Ms Keevers said.

‘‘The most worrying trend is an increasing number of families living in cars, tents or on friends’ couches because they simply can’t find suitable, affordable housing.’’