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Real estate institute urges Coalition to protect renters from Greens rent freeze

The Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) has called on Peter Dutton’s Coalition to support the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) after the Greens laid down an ultimatum to the Government in exchange for its support on the housing bill.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said his party would back the HAFF legislation through parliament in exchange for a two-year freeze on rent increases, ongoing rent caps and improved renters rights.

He also called for the Federal Government to guarantee at least $2.5 billion a year would be spent directly on public, community and affordable housing, starting immediately.

REIA President Hayden Groves said at a time where Australian renters and mortgage holders are struggling with the cost of living, the nation didn’t need endless speculation on rent freezes and rent caps.

“We know that rent freezes are bad for rental supply, bad for rental affordability and bad for renters,” he said.

“We know from lived experience it will send vacancy rates even lower.

“We’ve seen this bear out all over the world in OECD nations in cities like Berlin, Boston, Dublin and San Francisco.

“Ultimately, all you are doing is creating some short-term relief for political gain; and transferring future rent burdens to Australians seeking to enter the rental market later on.”

Mr Groves said a rent freeze – or any other investor-busting policy – would turn the tap off on housing investment across the board at a time when it is needed the most.

“The Housing Australia Future Fund and even the niche Build-to-Rent sector that is the darling of the Australian Government will be unable to attract the institutional investment it so requires if these types of investors get a whiff of rent controls and rent freezes,” he said.

“We thank Minister Collins and the Albanese Government for continuing to listen to the clear evidence in the face of Adam Bandt’s rental freeze snap.”

Mr Groves said that the Coalition should act on the HAFF to put rent freeze and rent control speculation to rest once and for all for both renters and mum-and-dad investors.

“It is clear Adam Bandt will not stop with this albeit well-intentioned thought bubble and we call on the Coalition, which is in a position to shift the dial on this, to enact a policy that Australians voted in when it comes to the HAFF,” he said. 

But Mr Bandt said his party’s offer was a good compromise.

“The Greens have shifted, and it is time for Labor to do the same,” he said.

“If Labor backs a rent freeze and guarantees real money for more housing, the Greens will pass Labor’s bill.”

Greens spokesperson for housing and homelessness Max Chandler-Mather said the Federal Government had left renters behind and they needed action now.

“If Labor can spend over $30 billion a year on Stage 3 tax cuts for the wealthy, they can find $3.5 billion a year to fund a rent freeze and more public and affordable housing,” he said.

“Rents are soaring under Labor and 60% of people back the Greens’ push for a rent freeze.”

Real Estate Institute of the Australian Capital Territory (REIACT) Chief Executive Officer Maria Edwards said the Greens rent freeze wasn’t the solution to Australia’s housing crisis. 

“Holding the country to ransom with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach ignores the unique economic indicators of each state and territory and disincentivises long-term investment in every jurisdiction, especially in Canberra where there has been a significant turnaround in the market in the past 12 months,” she said.

“We are now seeing landlords having to reduce weekly rents for properties as cost of living pressures impact what tenants can now afford whilst absorbing rapid and sustained increases to interest rates– a double whammy for investors.

“The priority for local governments needs to be providing more affordable housing options and rental assistance programs that can provide immediate support to tenants where most needed. 

“Ultimately an increase in overall housing supply is key to addressing rental affordability rather than further reducing incentives to invest in Canberra.” 

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.