Senate won’t deal with HAFF until Labor’s National Cabinet deals with skyrocketing rents, say Greens
19 June 2023
The Greens today have successfully deferred consideration of the HAFF bill until after National Cabinet determines its approach to rapidly rising rents later this year.
After months of sustained pressure from the Greens, Labor caved and met the Greens demand for immediate direct funding to tackle the crisis, with a one-off $2 billion for housing and guaranteeing $500 million a year from 2024/25. But this still falls significantly short of meeting the need, and will see housing waiting lists get longer, and there’s no reason Labor couldn’t spend the modest sum of $2.5 billion a year rebuilding public housing in Australia.
The pressure is now on Labor - which holds every National Cabinet seat on the mainland - to act on the rental crisis. Renters rights are on the National Cabinet and Housing Ministers’ meetings agenda, and further meetings are expected between August and October.
Capital city rents increased six times faster than wages in the last year. The RBA Governor expects rents will increase another 10% this year, and noted 'some people are experiencing bigger increases than that'. On the weekend Labor 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.
Attributable to Greens Leader Adam Bandt:
“Unlimited rent increases should be illegal.
“The pressure is now on the Prime Minister and the Labor Premiers to act on a rent freeze and limit rent increases.
“This is a test for Labor. It’s wall-to-wall Labor across the mainland, so rent rises are their responsibility.
“For months we have been calling for two things: real money on housing now, not after the next election, and action to limit soaring rents. For months Labor has said this was impossible. Over the weekend, Labor found an extra $2b to start going out the door in two weeks’ time, but they still won’t act on rents.
“We shouldn’t have to fight this hard to get Labor to limit rent increases during this rental and housing crisis.
“In parts of the country, rents were frozen during the pandemic and the situation is even worse now.
“Labor could negotiate a two-year rent freeze and limits on rent increases after that in the same way they just negotiated the states passing planning reform: by putting money on the table at National Cabinet.
“If Labor acts on soaring rents at National Cabinet, their bill can pass.”
Attributable to Max Chandler Mather, Greens housing and homelessness spokesperson:
“Pressure works. To everyone who told us to pass the HAFF six months ago, I say look at the events of the weekend. When we hold the line we get outcomes, and we need to see outcomes for renters.
“The Prime Minister must show leadership at National Cabinet and put money on the table to coordinate national limits on rent increases, otherwise Labor will abandon millions of renters to unlimited rent increases and poverty.
“The reason the Greens are fighting so hard to limit rent increases is because unless we stop rents skyrocketing the queues for public housing will blow out and our chances of tackling this crisis will drop to zero.
“First Labor said it was impossible to spend directly on housing, and then they did it. Now they say it’s impossible to coordinate national limits on rent increases, but it’s not.
“If Labor can spend $2 billion in one year then they can spend that every year and they can certainly coordinate proper national limits on rent increases.
“There are millions of renters staring down the barrel of eviction or financial stress if they cop one more massive rent increase, so just like Labor coordinated energy price caps they now must do the same and cap rents.
“The only reason Labor caved and agreed to spend $2 billion right now on housing is because the Greens stood up and fought, and we aren’t going to stop fighting for proper limits on rent increases and serious money every year for public housing.
“When interest rates come down, rents will stay high. Rents never go backwards. If Labor doesn’t act now, they’re sleepwalking into a crisis that will see housing get less affordable, more people evicted and hundreds of thousands of people joining the housing waiting list.”