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Rent Increases - Regulation

6 August 2019

Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for HOUSING, Mr JAENSCH

As you know, it is Homelessness Week and I am sure you too have had reports from constituents who have experienced massive rent spikes such as Orana, who performed yesterday at the launch of national Homelessness Week, whose family was made homeless as a result of a $70 a week increase in their rent. The Tenants' Union of Tasmania makes it clear that as a result of the housing crisis some landlords are gouging tenants, which is driving up homelessness rates. Do you agree that, as a government, you need to have a look at regulating rent increases to protect vulnerable from landlords gouging?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, as the member who asked the question should know, rents have increased in Tasmania because Tasmania does not have enough houses. Our priority is delivery of more houses in Tasmania, more supply in the market to meet demand to push prices down and affordability up.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I believe the minister has misled the House, perhaps inadvertently, because rents are not only rising because of the shortage of housing but because this Government has allowed short-stay accommodation to rise unchecked.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you, but that is not a point of order.

Mr JAENSCH - Madam Speaker, rents have increased because Tasmania does not have enough housing. Our priority and our focus is delivering more houses for Tasmania. Housing ends homelessness - that is the theme of Homelessness Week. When we consulted with our community five years ago and only eight months ago, delivery of more housing for Tasmanians was the priority issue raised because housing ends homelessness. That is why we delivered nearly 300 new social housing dwellings last year. That is why we have invested $125 million in our Affordable Housing Action Plan 2. That is why we are pursuing the waiving of our Commonwealth housing debt and that is why we are proceeding to use the Housing Land Supply Act provisions that were agreed to by everyone in this House last year to release more land at Huntingfield and other sites around Tasmania so there is more land and more houses for Tasmanians who need them, because Tasmania needs more houses.

We are not considering at this stage the introduction of any new rules that could end up reducing the size of the private rental market and dissuading people from investing in new houses to rent to Tasmanians who need them when we actually need more houses to be invested in and built and rented to Tasmanians right across the spectrum of need. Across the housing spectrum in Tasmania there is a variety of rent-setting approaches already used. Tenants in public housing pay an income-based rent which is set at a maximum of 25 per cent of their assessable income capped at market rent. Community housing tenants under the Better Housing Futures program pay 25 per cent of their assessable income and the Commonwealth rent assistance -

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, on relevance, and I apologise to you in advance, but this is about the private rental market, not about the Government as landlord.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you. Unfortunately, it is not a point of order. I ask the minister to continue.

Mr JAENSCH - Madam Speaker, I assure you I am directly addressing the topic raised by the member regarding how rent-setting approaches are applied in Tasmania. Community housing tenants under the Better Housing Futures program pay 25 per cent of their assessable income and the Commonwealth rent assistance that they are entitled to receive from the Australian Government. These funds are also used to provide services to tenants. Tenants who rent properties that were constructed under the National Rental Affordability Scheme usually pay rent set at a maximum of 80 per cent of market rent, and people in the private rental market usually pay market rent.

The Residential Tenancy Commissioner already has powers to make orders to limit unreasonable rent increases under the Residential Tenancy Act 1997, and under that same act, rent amounts can only be increased if certain conditions can be met, including whether there is a written lease which allows for increases and sufficient warning has been given to the tenant at the beginning or at the renewal of the lease. It is important to note that the Residential Tenancy Commissioner has the power now to review all rent increases to assess their reasonableness. In an event of an increase that is found to be unreasonable, the commissioner my order the owner to limit or change the increase to a specified amount under the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 right now.

This is just another thought bubble from the Greens aimed at introducing and constraining investment in new housing and rental properties for Tasmanians who need them at a time where everyone here should agree Tasmanians need them most.