Wednesday, 7 September 2022
Statements by Senators
Housing is not a commodity or an investment; it is in fact a human right. Every Australian deserves to have the security of a safe place to sleep and to live without the worry of eviction. No-one should have to deal with the anxiety of whether their landlord will take the opportunity to raise the rent this week or whether this will be the week that their landlord decides that they want to renovate and in so doing evict them. Australians are facing an unprecedented housing crisis right now. Homes are more unaffordable than they have ever been, and inflation is driving up the cost of living and has made mortgages unsustainable. If you are a renter, it is even worse. My office and I have heard story after story of people being priced out of their rental homes due to the greed of landlords trying to exploit what they see as a quick profit.
If you are a victim of this exploitative behaviour, a new rental can be almost impossible to find. In my hometown of Perth, the vacancy rate on rental properties is just one per cent. Those numbers, if you can imagine it, get even worse in regional towns like Bunbury, Albany and Broome. This has empowered landlords and rental agencies to increase rent by literally hundreds of dollars. With 50 people or more attending open homes every week, rental bidding is all too commonplace. The devastating impact of this unsustainable and exploitative market has been dire. People have been forced to sleep in their cars, on friends' couches or on the street just to get by.
This is a catastrophic situation. The worst of it is that it is avoidable. As members of this place, it is our collective responsibility to regulate the market, and the only good market is one that works for all Australians. That is why the Australian Greens are calling for an immediate freeze on rents and rent increases. It is not even unprecedented to take this approach, to freeze rent increases. It is something in fact that the Scottish government agreed to do just recently. In their most recent budget update, they have executed a complete freeze on rent increases and evictions until 2023. The Australian government has even done it. During World War II, rents indeed were frozen. It's time for the government to side with workers, with people and with renters and immediately freeze rent increases.
As part of the broader and urgently needed affordable, accessible and inclusive housing agenda, we as a community and the federal and state governments have a fantastic opportunity before us. There is a little known process going on right now by which Australia is recreating its National Construction Code. As part of that review process, the states and territories have been given the opportunity to embrace new sustainable housing construction code guidelines and new accessible and inclusive construction guidelines, particularly for residential properties—houses, rentals et cetera.
I am really pleased and proud to say that it's the Greens here in the ACT that champion inclusive design standards at the national level. So far, the majority of states and territories have bought into that system and have agreed that from 12 months time every home constructed will be accessible for disabled people—that is, every state except two: one is my state of Western Australia; the other is New South Wales. The Greens will continue to push until WA comes onboard with inclusive design standards.