Following the Government’s decision to bring the Housing Australia Future Fund bill back to the house unamended, the Greens have written to the Prime Minister and Premiers to reaffirm the party’s willingness to reach a compromise that includes an agreement on national rent caps and stronger renters rights, and more investment in public housing.
The letter comes as the Greens ramp up the pressure on the Government to come to the table, launching a new wave of doorknocking in Labor electorates across the country, talking to people about the housing crisis. Over the past six months, the Greens have mobilised over 500 volunteers, and knocked on 10,000 doors in Labor electorates across the country.
Of the thousands of conversations:
- 90% agree Labor need to be far more ambitious on housing
- 88% agree the Greens should hold firm and force Labor to improve their plan
The letter also outlines the key reforms to protect renters that the Greens believe should be adopted as part of the National Cabinet process. After sustained pressure from the Greens the government was forced to put national rental rights on the agenda.
With the ACT Labor Conference passing a motion calling on the Federal Government to invest $2.5 billion a year in public and affordable housing, and the CFMEU calling on Labor to invest $500 billion, pressure is building on Labor to do more, including from within their own ranks.
With Victoria potentially adopting the Greens plan for a two year freeze on rent increase, NSW considering a plan to limit excessive rent increases and Queensland reviewing rent controls, the Greens believe there is now an opening at National Cabinet for the Prime Minister to push through national limits on rent increases, especially if the Federal Government puts more federal funding on the table.
Locations for doorknocks:
QLD: Moreton, Lilley
VIC: Fraser, Wills, Higgins,
Lines attributable to Max Chandler-Mather, Australian Greens spokesperson for housing and homelessness
“While Labor threatens early elections and tries to ram their broken housing bill through parliament unchanged, the Greens remain ready to negotiate a plan that invests real money in public housing, coordinates national limits on rent increases and better renters rights.
“It’s clear that the Prime Minister is increasingly isolated in his refusal to amend this bill to meet the scale of the crisis. He’s facing a revolt from the unions, who want him to build thirty times more homes. He’s losing faith with Labor branches, who are considering rent freezes and want him to back the Greens’ demands. He’s out of touch with the community, who overwhelmingly want a rent freeze. The PM should listen to them, and negotiate with us.
“I’m happy to sit down with the Prime Minister, any time, anywhere. Next time he comes into Brisbane he should come with us to hear from renters who are unable to pay the bills and facing eviction, because he thinks unlimited rent increases should be allowed.
“This weekend hundreds of volunteers will be knocking on thousands of doors across the country, talking to people in Labor electorates about the housing crisis. Maybe if Labor did the same they’d realise just how serious this crisis is and how eager people are to see them do more.
“The Prime Minister clearly thinks he can do nothing for the third of people in this country who rent. The Greens say he needs to go to National Cabinet and push for proper rights for renters, from an end to unlimited rent increases, no grounds evictions, longer leases, and minimum standards for rental properties.”
Letter to Prime Minister and Premiers from Max Chandler-Mather, Australian Greens spokesperson for housing and homelessness and Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Acting Leader of the Australian Greens
Dear Prime Minister and Premiers,
We write on behalf of the Australian Greens Party Room ahead of further sittings of Parliament and meetings of the National Cabinet with the hope that your actions can allow the Greens to support the passage of the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) Bill. Now that the Government has flagged its intentions to reintroduce the HAFF completely unchanged, unfortunately, we are rapidly forming the view that Labor is more interested in getting a double dissolution trigger than acting on the housing and rental crisis. Given Labor does not have a majority in the Senate, we call on you to work cooperatively with us to ensure the passage of the bill, rather than refusing to compromise.
As we have previously communicated with you, the Australian Greens are ready to support the passage of the Bill through the Senate in October, or sooner, if the Commonwealth commits up to $2.5 billion in annual funding for public, community and affordable housing and the National Cabinet agrees on significant reforms to renters rights including a freeze and cap on rent increases. We would also like it noted that in relation to design standards it is our view that the government should only fund developments that meet the national inclusive design standards. Your current commitment to do this only "when practicable" does not reflect best practice or meet the community need.
The case for greater Commonwealth investment in public, community and affordable housing can not be disputed. This week the CFMEU released independent research by Oxford Economics Australia identifying a gap of 750,700 social and affordable dwellings and found that even taking into account the HAFF, the shortage of social and affordable housing will increase. With regards to rents, the latest inflation data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported the biggest quarterly rent increase in 35 years with all signs pointing to even larger rent increases in the next 12 months.
The posting of a surplus in excess of $20 billion reinforces that the Commonwealth has the capacity to increase its investment. With regards to renters, we note that according to recent reports the Victorian Government is considering adopting the Greens proposal for a 2 year freeze on rent increases and limiting future rent increases to once every two years. Meanwhile, New South Wales has flagged potential reforms to limit rent increases, while Queensland is currently reviewing its rent controls.
There is clearly momentum building across the country towards making unlimited rent increases illegal. With National Cabinet currently considering a plan to harmonise national renters rights, now is the time for the Federal Government to take national leadership and offer the funding needed to secure national rent freezes, caps and rights.
To assist you in your upcoming deliberations I want to set out the specific rental reforms the Australian Greens would like to see National Cabinet adopt:
1. A 2 year freeze on rent increases
2. Cap rent increases following any rent freeze, limiting the amount and the frequency of future increases
3. Attach any rent control to the property, not the lease to ensure there is no incentive for a landlord to evict a tenant
4. An end to no-grounds evictions, where a landlord may only decline to renew a lease if they wish to take up residence in the property, there is an unremedied breach of lease agreement or there are major renovations;
5. Giving renters a right to request “European style” long-term leases;
6. Establishing public authorities to enforce improved minimum standards for rental properties
To be clear, if the Commonwealth is willing to use the offer of additional federal funding to help co-ordinate, through National Cabinet, the kind of reforms now being considered by the Victorian Government, including a 2 year freeze on rent increases, and ongoing caps on rents after that, and to put $2.5b a year of the $20b surplus towards building public housing, the Greens are willing to pass the HAFF.
We note that not only is the Victorian Government considering the Greens rent freeze proposals, but the ACT Labor Conference passed a motion calling on the Federal Government to adopt the Greens demand to invest $2.5 billion a year in public and affordable housing. If Victorian and ACT Labor can back in the Greens’ proposals, so can Federal Labor.
Your government’s housing plan as it stands, will see the housing crisis get much worse, locking in catastrophic failure, however the Greens stand ready to negotiate a plan that will start to tackle the scale of the crisis.
In the context of the scale of the housing crisis and a $20 billion budget surplus, we believe this is a reasonable offer.
Senator Mehreen Faruqi
Greens Acting Leader
Greens Housing Spokesperson
MP for Griffith