Inquiry finds rent freeze appropriate during ‘extreme times’, Greens say that time is now

Australian Greens

The Victorian Greens have said Labor is fast running out of excuses to shun a rent freeze, after an inquiry found it was appropriate during times of crisis.

The Greens-established parliamentary inquiry into the state’s rental crisis tabled its final report today.

It found that a rent freeze was appropriate in extreme times as a short-term solution, using the COVID-19 pandemic as a benchmark for such crises.

Yet according to the latest Rental Affordability Index report, renters in every capital city across the country are currently in a worse position than they were since the pandemic began.

By the inquiry report’s own threshold, this means rent controls are needed now to provide relief to renters struggling more than ever before.

The inquiry heard the extreme housing stress that renters are experiencing – stories of pregnant mothers being evicted with nowhere to go, retaliatory rent increases and elderly renters taking stock of safe bridges to sleep under, in the event that they can’t afford the rent anymore.

Hundreds of submissions from housing organisations, legal experts, unions and councils, as well as renters and even some landlords called for rent controls in some form, including Tenants Victoria, Victorian Council of Social Services, Federation of Community Legal Centres, Mallee District Aboriginal Services, Centre for Multicultural Youth, Victorian Public Tenants Association and Youth Affairs Council.

The terms used varied – including rent control, rent freeze, caps, limiting rent increases, regulating rent increases, rent stabilisation or a “fairness formula” for rent increases – but all have the effect of making unlimited rent rises illegal.

Victorian Greens renters’ rights spokesperson, Gabrielle de Vietri, said while Labor continued to ignore both the expert advice and renters across the state, the crisis would only get worse.

The Greens today also released their own 40-page minority report on the inquiry, to include the evidence, recommendations, and first-hand renter experiences presented to the inquiry that were omitted from the main report by the Labor and Liberal-dominated committee.

As stated by Victorian Greens renters’ rights spokesperson, Gabrielle de Vietri MP:

“The inquiry painted a desperate picture of what it’s like to be a renter right now.

“The report found that a rent freeze is appropriate in times of extreme crisis, like during COVID lockdowns. Well, renters are worse off now than since the pandemic began, so it’s time to act.

“Unlimited rent increases should be illegal, and the organisations that deal with the crisis everyday have overwhelmingly backed rent controls as a reasonable and necessary government intervention.

“Will Labor keep screwing over renters just to keep their property mates on side?

“An immediate two-year rent freeze followed by a permanent cap on rent increases would protect renters, many forced to go without food or medicine, just to keep a roof over their heads.

“We did it during the pandemic, and we should be doing it now.”

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