Large rent rises with little relief

National agenda: The federal Greens called for national rent freezes at the National Cabinet meeting discussing the housing crisis. File photograph



AS the national cabinet met in Brisbane recently, to discuss the housing crisis, there were calls from advocacy groups and the federal Greens for a nationwide rental freeze to ease pressures on tenants, with Gippsland hit particularly badly.

Rental prices are rising at an increased pace, with a two per cent rise nationally.

Rents in rural Victoria increased by five per cent in the March quarter, according to the PropTrack Market Insight Report, with the median advertised rental price up nearly 8 per cent yearly to $420 per week.

In Traralgon, the median rental price for houses increased by 5.1 per cent in the last year to $410 per week, while the average rental price for flats has increased by six per cent to $310 per week.

Morwell’s median rental price rose by 15.8 per cent in the previous year, while Churchill’s has risen by 12.5 per cent in the same time period, with the average cost to rent a property at $347 and $360 per week, respectively.

Rental costs in Yinnar increased 13.9 per cent in the past year, with the median house rent price at $410 per week, while houses in Yallourn North are three per cent more costly to rent than this time last year, with the typical property costing $340 per week.

At the national cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, offered state and local councils $3.5 billion to fast-track the construction of 1.2 million homes over the next five years. This came less than two months after giving the states a one-off, $2 billion grant to build or refurbish social and affordable housing.

Mr Albanese put $3 billion in “performance bonuses” on the table to encourage the states to accelerate land release, planning and approvals processes to build “well-located” homes.

He also pledged a $500 million housing support program to encourage state and local governments to fast-track the construction of amenities and services to support new developments.

A federation of tenants’ unions and advice services has released nine calls for rental reform action, including an end to no-cause evictions, fair limits on rent increases, minimum rental standards, and greater privacy protections.

Ahead of national cabinet meeting on Wednesday, August 16, the National Association of Renters’ Organisations (NARO) convenor, Penny Carr, said governments had an obligation to fix the common problems renters experience.

“Renters who are struggling to find an affordable home, on the verge of eviction, too scared to request repairs, and experiencing discrimination can’t keep hoping for change – they are desperately relying on all governments to take action now,” Ms Carr said.

“For a growing number of Australians, renting is no longer a temporary step – it’s a lifelong reality. Our recommendations for rental reform will create the stable, affordable, liveable, accountable and safe private rental market that renters need and deserve.

“During today’s housing crisis, there are stronger, more uniform protections for consumers at the checkout than there is in renting a home. Improving renters’ rights and protections requires national consistency. The federal government must step in just as it has in developing a consistent approach to state and territory legislation in other areas.”

National cabinet did not freeze or cap rents, fearing that woiuld make the rental crisis worse by driving away investors or causing immediate rental spikes.

The federal Greens have expressed their disappointment with the rental policies, which are already in place for the most part of the nation.

The advocacy group Everybody’s Home calls on National Cabinet to immediately adopt strong nationwide rental reform to ease the housing crisis.

Spokesperson Maiy Azize said governments must end no-cause evictions, limit unfair rent increases, adopt minimum rental standards, and improve compliance.

National cabinet should introduce strong reforms to protect renters,Ms Azize said.”There’s no doubt we need more social housing, but we also need to fix the unstable and unaffordable private rental market.”

The Senate is sceptical of the government’s primary housing strategy, which would contribute to the financing of up to 30,000 new social and affordable dwellings.

“Many renters are not only struggling to secure a home, but when they have one, it’s a battle to keep it. Landlords have jacked up rents at an extraordinary pace and are getting away with unfairly evicting tenants and providing them with poor-quality homes,” Ms Azize added.

“We need a robust national approach to renters’ rights and rental standards. The growing number of renters – many of whom will be renting for life – deserve a safe, decent, affordable home no matter where they live in Australia.”

However, the Property Club, a property investment group, suggested rent reform and freezes could worsen the crisis. A Property Club survey found that seven out of ten landlords would sell their properties if rental caps and freezes were to be introduced.

Kevin Young, president of the Property Club, said that the survey confirmed that a rental cap and/or rental freeze being proposed by the Greens Party as part of the Federal Housing Australia Future Fund Bill would lead to even higher rents and greater homeliness throughout Australia.

“The snap survey of Property Club membership found 67 per cent would be more likely to sell their investment properties if proposals such as rent freezes and rental caps were introduced,” he said.

“The survey confirms that many landlords are already under financial stress, and any additional cost burdens imposed on them by Government would lead to a stampede of property investors exiting the real estate market.

“Any rental caps or freezes would be the final straw that breaks the property investor camel’s back in Australia. They would lead to even fewer rental properties pushing up rents and leading to a homeless crisis in Australia.”