This week, ABC’s 7:30 ran a four-part feature on housing issues within Australia. The team at Make Renting Fair QLD was particularly interested in the series, as was the Tenants Queensland CEO, Penny Carr:
‘These are the stories we hear about daily on our advice service,” says Penny. “We’ve been raising the need for changes to provide greater stability, safety, the ability to create a home for a long time. When people from Deloitte and ex Productivity Commission are saying the same thing, you know that change is overdue!’
Here’s a summary of the key points from the show as they relate to the need for policy change.
Experts say law reform is required.
- NICKI HUTLEY, PARTNER, DELOITTE ACCESS ECONOMICS: “We have a lot of laws that are around renting that favour overly the owner rather than the renter, particularly around security of tenure. Anyone who works in this space has consistently, for decades, talked about how far behind we are compared to Europe or even the US and yet we do nothing about it.”
- BRENDAN COATES, GRATTAN INSTITUTE: “Many more Australians will be renting for much more or, in fact, their entire lives. In that world where you’re bringing up kids in the home, it is much more important that you have stability, and therefore, we do need to shift tenancy laws in favour of giving greater security of tenure to renters.”
- STEPHEN KOUKOULAS, ECONOMIST: “(There is) absolutely no doubt at all the tax system encourages and favours very strongly homeowners and discriminates against renters.”
- PETER HARRIS, CHAIRMAN, PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION (2013-18): “In supporting people investing in housing, we’re ignoring this growing trend for people to not invest in housing and to need rental accommodation, and the tax system is biased against that.”
- Felicity Emmett ECONOMIST ANZ: “Government support is needed so we can supply affordable rental housing, particularly in the major cities and in the middle and inner rims.”
Getting into the property market has become increasingly difficult.
- To save a 20 per cent home deposit while living in a capital city will now take nine years for a typical household.
- Houses cost more to buy than previously, with the median house price in Sydney now more than eight times the average household income.
Fewer Australians own their own home, and more Australians are renting for longer or for life.
- The rate of homeownership declined in every age group between 2011 and 2016.
- One in four Australians now rents their home. We know the rate of renting your home is higher in Queensland and sits around 36% of households.
- Since the mid-1990s, the number of renters has increased by about 20 per cent.
- More low-income earners are now renting and in the last two decades, the number of those experiencing rental stress has doubled. That means they are paying over 30% of their income in rent.
The government favours homeownership.
- The 7:30 Report identified at least 40 different grants and subsidies for homeowners across Australia.
- Political parties are afraid to make tax reforms that could lower the price of houses.
- A person’s primary place of residence is excluded from the aged pension means test, meaning someone can own a house worth $2 million and still receive the government pension.
Renting comes at a cost, and contributes to a growing wealth divide.
- A paper published late last year by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) found that 80 per cent of the lowest income earners are paying more rent than they can afford.
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that in 2017-18, a property-owning household with at least one occupants over 65 had a median net worth of $960,000. Similar households still paying off their mortgage were worth a comparable $934,900. Households with residents of the same age who rented were worth only $40,800.
- The proportion of Australians living in severely crowded dwellings increased by more than 50 per cent between 2001 and 2016. Severe crowding is classified as homelessness by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
- ROGER WILKINS, UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE: “We now have over a quarter of single parents living in housing stress. They have extremely high rates of poverty”.
- PETER HARRIS, CHAIRMAN, PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION (2013-18): “If you’re a minimum wage earner or something between minimum and average weekly earnings, and it is you alone as a single person, accommodation costs for you are going to be more like 40 per cent, 45 per cent of your income.”
- According to Brendan Coates of the Grattan Institute, there is a close relationship between renting and poverty. “Renting is just about the best predictor of financial hardship in Australia today,” he told 7.30. “There’s a really clear link between rates of financial stress and poverty and the fact that people are renters rather than homeowners….Three decades ago your chances of owning your own home were roughly the same whether you were wealthy or poor in Australia. Fast forward to today and home ownership is really, really dependent upon your income. Home ownership is crashing amongst the bottom 40 per cent by income and also amongst younger Australians, and it does mean that increasingly your ability to own your own home depends as much on who your parents are as whatever endeavours that you go about in your own life.”
Given that Australians are renting for longer periods of time, raising their children and ageing in the rental market, improvements to tenancy laws are needed.
We need to make sure that a tenancy can only be ended for a fair and lawful reason, to give people greater stability. Clarifying the standard of properties expected by the community, and introducing better processes to make sure they’re met, will keep Queensland families safe. Letting renters decide whether to keep pets, as long as the pet is appropriate for the property, and allowing them to make minor safety and cosmetic changes will help create homes for all.
Everyone needs a safe and stable place to make a home. It’s time to #MakeRentingFair in Queensland.