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Rent freeze would save renters $5.3bn: Greens

Written by on May 9, 2024

Australians could be spared $5.3bn in rent increases over the next 12 months if a rent freeze was implemented, new parliamentary library analysis for the Greens shows.

Rental inflation was nearly 8 per cent over the last year to March, and the Reserve Bank has predicted that will increase to 10 per cent over the next 12 months.

The Greens say if a rent freeze had been implemented when first called for by the party in 2022, renters across the country would have saved $6.7bn in rental increases based on the latest available annual CPI data.

The analysis shows if Labor were to implement a freeze on rental increases in next week’s budget, the country’s 2.19 million private rental households would save $2424 per household over the next year.

Cumulatively, that would equate to $5.3bn over the next 12 months and $8.89bn over the next two years.

Greens housing spokesman Max Chandler Mather said that figure “might not mean much to property investors like the Prime Minister, but for many renters it means food on the table for their kids”.

“Renters have already been smashed but are now facing the worst year of rent increases in living memory unless Labor takes action to freeze and cap rent increases,” he said.

“Labor has already repeatedly kicked renters in the teeth by refusing to do anything to cap rents while dishing out billions of dollars in tax handouts to property investors, so this is their chance to finally stop treating renters like second-class citizens.”

The Greens have proposed the federal government offer the states and territories a share of $2.5bn every year in exchange for a two-year rent freeze, followed by an ongoing cap of 2 per cent every two years after.

Mr Chandler-Mather said the government needed to take swift action.

“Ultimately, Labor has to make a choice, the seven million renters facing financial misery as a result of unlimited rent increases or property investors who already pocket billions in tax handouts from this Labor government,” he said.

On Wednesday, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said housing would be a “big focus and a big priority” of next week’s budget.

But when asked if the budget would contain more rental assistance, Mr Chalmers wouldn’t be drawn.

“I think people recognise that because of the substantial increase in rent assistance that we budgeted for last year, those rental figures that you cite, they’re still too high, but they are lower than they would have otherwise been had we not stepped in with that rent assistance,” he said.

“And so people know our bona fides here. They know that we’ve been prepared in the past to step in and help renters. We know that renters are under pressure, but I’m not prepared to go further than that today.”

Housing Minister Julie Collins last week said Australia “needs homes of every type”.

“That’s why we need more social homes, more affordable rental homes, more homes to rent and more homes to buy,” she said.

“And that is why we’re working right across the housing system.”