With the upcoming Jobs Summit and recent Everybody’s Home research detailing the impact the rental crisis is having on the broader economy, Max Chandler-Mather MP, Greens spokesperson for Housing and Homelessness, has today called on Federal government to introduce a nationwide two-year rent freeze.
Under the Greens’ plan, National Cabinet would agree on national tenancy standards that include a 2 year emergency rent freeze. This would be followed by ongoing rent caps and an end to no grounds evictions, minimum standards for rental properties and tenant rights to make minor improvements to the home.
Following the 2 year rent freeze, rents would be capped at 2% increases every 24 months. Based on wages and rents at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, this would see wages catch back up with rents by 2029.
The Greens call comes as Australia has seen the biggest rent increases in 14 years, putting millions of Australians into severe rental stress and exacerbating regional labour shortages because workers are being priced out of local rental markets.
Lines attributable to Max Chandler-Mather MP, Greens spokesperson for Housing and Homelessness:
“With more and more people renting long term, we desperately need legislated protections against unfair, arbitrary evictions and skyrocketing rents.”
“As the Everybody’s Home report detailed yesterday, the rental affordability crisis is destroying regional communities and impacting the broader economy. A rent freeze will help those communities rebuild, tackle the skills shortage and protect livelihoods.”
“If the government is serious about cost of living relief, if they’re serious about affordable housing, then it’s a no-brainer to freeze rent rises.
“Rents are out of control, millions of Australian renters are struggling to pay the rent, and unless the Government wants to see more families sleeping in their cars they need to do their job and act now to stop this crisis boiling over into a national tragedy.
“During the pandemic the Victorian Government froze rents, while governments around the world have used rent freezes and controls successfully to protect households and their homes, there’s no reason why we can’t do it here.
“Just as the Government coordinated a national response to the COVID19 health crisis, the Federal Government should intervene to coordinate an emergency nationwide response to the housing crisis that includes a rent freeze.
“We’ve got families sleeping in their cars, workers unable to afford a home near where they work, people being evicted from their homes because they can’t afford 20% rent increases and the governments just sitting on their hands when they have the capacity to intervene and stop the worst of this crisis.”
Renters across Australia are facing annual rent increases of 17.9% in capital cities and 13.4% nationwide. 2.7 million Australians are in rental stress with over 1 million in severe rental stress. In the past 12 months rents in capital cities have grown seven times faster than wages.
Since mid-2020 rents have been spiking, growing many times faster than wages. Even under the Greens plan to freeze rents for two years, then cap rent increases at 2% every 2 years, wage growth won’t make up for the impacts of recent rent growth until 2029.
History of rent freezes
Rent-freezes have a long history of use in times of rampant inflation. In Australia, rents were frozen by the Commonwealth government in 1941 to deal with inflation caused by wartime shortages. Most recently, the Victorian government froze rents for six months during the COVID-19 crisis, and Cherbourg implemented a rent freeze to deal with a mass influx of former residents returning home searching for affordable and culturally-appropriate housing. Internationally, rent controls are in place in designated ‘rent pressure zones’ in Scotland, in British Columbia and New York. Recently, London mayor Sadiq Khan has called to be granted powers to freeze private rents for two years, and the New Zealand Human Rights Commission called for a temporary rent freeze to tackle a similar cost of living and rent crisis in New Zealand.