FAMILIES are the latest victims of Emerald's worsening rental crisis.
Mothers and fathers are being forced to share with other families in an attempt to pay the rising rents in a town slow to develop more housing to meet the demand stemming from mining and retail expansions.
Long-term tenants with impeccable records are packing up their homes as their lease renewals ask for double their rent in a property market described by local real estate agents as the worst Emerald has ever seen.
"If anything comes in the rentals, they're gone immediately," CD Adams principal Clinton Adams said.
"A lot of people are missing out... The human emotion is extreme.
"It's critical at the moment. It's the worst I have ever seen in 25 years."
Real estate agents have waiting lists of at least 20 applicants.
But a property will remain on the market for less than a day as families - facing exorbitant rents or homelessness - snap up properties sight unseen.
"Certainly there has been a spike in rental increases and it's a two-edged sword," Emerald Real Estate owner Jason Campbell said.
"At times we haven't put up rents as high and owners or landlords get calls from other agents saying they could get more.
"(The rental market) is critical at the moment. It's the worst I have ever seen in 25 years."
CD Adams principal Clinton Adams
"The agents don't have control over the rental prices and certainly not the increases."
While residents welcome expansion to Emerald's retail sector, the developments bring further pressure on the already haemorrhaging rental market.
LJ Hooker principal Brenda Logovik said retail giant Woolworths wasn't immune to the concern when staffing its new store at Emerald Market Plaza.
"There also has been Woolworths looking for their young employees for the area," Ms Logovik said.
"I've heard of two families willing to join up as one, but they too have a price range they can afford."
While most agents respected the right of investors to reap the highest return on their investment, they said landlords were urged to keep prices as low as possible.
"In the end, landlords are there as an investor. They buy up the properties as a business, one to make money and maximise returns and make as much rent as possible," Mr Campbell said.
"I would see most people have a preference for a good tenant with a reasonable price, but there are others looking for the top dollar," Ms Logovik said.
Mr Adams said the Central Highlands Council had fought hard with the State Government to inject funding into the area, but "they don't want to listen".