Speaking with people in our communities at the moment or even picking up a newspaper, you would have to have your head buried deeply in the sand if you fail to recognise that housing affordability is absolutely top of mind for so many. And there is no surprise why—rent has gone through the roof. The dream of owning your first home has become a real nightmare. Across the country, many areas have seen the steepest annual rent increases on record this year. In Sydney, where I live, the annual increase has been a whopping 19.6 per cent. A very grim tale is told in regional New South Wales as well, especially by those who have been so deeply affected by the climate induced floods.
The unfolding rental affordability crisis is destroying communities. A recent ABC article tells this story:
Single mother Tilly Eastwood says the worst part of being priced out of the rental market isn't living in a garage with her three children. It isn't the absence of windows for light or fresh air. It's not even the 150-plus failed rental applications.
It's the gnawing feeling that she's letting down her kids.
How is it that the Labor government is willing to put $244 billion for stage 3 tax cuts back into the pockets of the wealthiest and the billionaires yet refuse to act for those who are struggling to keep a roof over their head—a very basic human right? We need a national rent freeze and we need it now. With more and more people renting long term, it's beyond clear that people in our community of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life desperately need relief from skyrocketing rents and poor tenancy protections.
The federal government cannot just wash their hands of the responsibility of ensuring a home for everyone. They regularly play a role in issues like industrial relations, energy and other issues which would usually be left up to individual states and territories, so surely they can do the same for housing. A two-year rent freeze would be followed by ongoing rent caps, an end to no-grounds evictions, minimum standards for rental properties, and rights for tenants to make minor improvements to their homes as well as to have companion animals.
The Greens have been fighting hard for rental affordability, renters' rights and homes for all. Here are a couple of examples. Jenny Leong, the Greens member for Newtown, has been leading this work in the New South Wales parliament. Earlier this year Jenny introduced a private member's bill to introduce eviction bans and rent gaps in flood impacted areas in New South Wales as well as an end to no-grounds evictions and a limit to rent increases for renters across New South Wales. Further north, the Greens MP for South Brisbane, Amy MacMahon, introduced a bill that would freeze rents for two years. In her second reading speech, Amy said:
Across Queensland families are struggling to make ends meet with rising costs of rent, fuel and groceries and it is hitting renters and first home buyers the hardest. … Families are living in tents because they cannot afford a secure, affordable home.
This is an outrageous situation, and it requires decisive action now to finally tackle it. The housing affordability crisis is harming too many people. We need a rent freeze right now. We need strong national renters' rights standards. We need to build a million publicly owned affordable homes. We need to end the tax loopholes for the richest in the country. Nobody should be without a home. Whether you own a home or rent, our housing system should work for people, not for profit. The government must make the choice of fixing this crisis.