In the most recent sitting weeks, the Senate has voted to defer the vote on the HAFF for a few months because we need to keep negotiating to pass a bill that will actually start to tackle the scale of the housing crisis. After months of sustained pressure from the Greens, Labor has agreed to $2 billion of direct funding for social housing, starting immediately. The Greens have also been able to secure the country’s first ever national inquiry into the rental crisis which will force Labor to consider the worsening housing crisis for renters in Australia.
As yet, we haven’t seen Labor shift at all on the Greens second negotiating ask, to act on rising rents. National Cabinet is currently considering rental laws across the country, with a view to ‘harmonising’ renters’ rights. That process is due to come back to report on that in October, so we’ve said we will consider the HAFF after that. Despite Labor’s spin, this won’t impact or delay homes being built, as their bill doesn’t actually guarantee any money until 2024/25.
In the meantime, the pressure is on Labor - which holds every National Cabinet seat on the mainland - to act on the rental crisis. Rising rents are already having a devastating impact across the country. Capital city rents increased six times faster than wages in the last year. The RBA Governor has said he expects rents will increase another 10% this year, if not more. Labor has now incentivised the states to pass planning reform in exchange for the $2 billion housing spend, and they could use exactly the same model to incentivise a freeze and cap on rent increases.
The reason the Greens are fighting so hard to limit rent increases is because unless we stop rents skyrocketing, no matter how much housing we build, the queues for public housing will blow out and our chances of tackling this crisis will drop to zero.
I also think it’s important to put all this in context. The current shortage of social and affordable housing in Australia is 640,000 homes and is due to grow by 75,000 homes in the next five years. While 62% of the over 8 million people who rent are already in financial stress. Labor’s entire plan, at best, will build 30,000 social and affordable homes over five years with $500 million a year. The Federal Government’s own expert housing body has said we need $15 billion of investment every year to tackle the housing crisis. If Labor’s plan goes through now, without locking in greater investment every year and national limits on rent increases, millions of people will be left behind and things will get much much worse.
We know what the solutions are, we just need to force Labor to act. If they can find $30 billion a year for stage 3 tax cuts and $12 billion a year for nuclear subs, then they can afford to tackle the housing crisis and ensure that everyone has a home.