Rent or Buy?
By Justin Power, Assistant Secretary
Housing security and the rights of those who rent has become a critical issue for SDA members and it is why the SDA recently commissioned research from the John Curtin Research Centre. Whether housing is affordable and secure can have a profound impact on our social, economic, physical and mental health.
Australia is becoming a nation of renters. As of August 2020, there were 2.6 million households and 8 million people renting. This equates to 31% of the population.
Dr Nick Dyrenfurth, is the Executive Director of the Research Centre and he authored the final report named ‘A plan for Secure Housing in Australia’. The report includes key recommendations that would help alleviate the stress associated with housing and provide Australians with greater security.
Why this is needed
A roof over our heads is a basic physical need. Shelter is where we rejuvenate as individuals and it is where society nurtures our children and we care for our elderly.
Australia has a problem with the lack of security it provides for those who rent. As more people rent and rent for increasingly longer periods, this problem must be acknowledged and ultimately it must be addressed. Some will rent as a matter of preference but others will rent because they cannot afford to enter a housing market that is marching away form lower paid workers in less secure jobs. In the capital city housing markets, more and more stories are featuring in the media where people have saved over $100,000 and yet they cannot get a housing loan.
It is in the best interests of SDA members that the debate around housing security, and the need for greater security for those who rent, is advanced through a more equitable framework.
The rights of those who rent in Australia have not kept pace with the structural shift towards renting which has occurred during recent decades. We should not view renting as some precarious waiting room for home ownership. Whether an individual, couple or family rents out of choice or necessity, they are entitled to a sense of security in that housing arrangement.
We must develop policy that provides a sufficient supply of good quality housing to meet the needs of every Australian whether they rent or own property. This research paper ‘A plan for Secure Housing in Australia’ is a significant contribution to the debate that must take place in the development of such policy. Housing is a nation building project and every Australian including SDA members have a vested interest in ensuring it is provided on secure and affordable terms.
Key recommendations of Report
The Report proposes comprehensive recommendations to tackle long-running systemic problems around rental stress and insecure tenure. They are:
- Permanently increase the levels of rent assistance to eligible, lower income individuals, (solo) women(especially targeted at women aged 55 and above) and families;
- The federal government should establish a permanent National Affordable Housing Agency (NAHA);
- The NAHA should oversee a dedicated national policy agenda aimed at maximising the affordability and security of tenure of renters;
- Build up the capacity of community housing;
- Establish basic guidelines around a national charter of renters’ rights and responsibilities, setting clear national minimum standards around security of tenure, stability and fairness of rent prices, and bonds. The charter should seek, through uniform tenancy laws, a two year national minimum tenure for renters to apply across State and Territory jurisdictions;
- The NAHA should also end the ‘dead money’ practice of security bonds not delivering for renters.
There is no doubt in my mind that the issue of housing will become a far bigger issue in the corridors of state and federal parliaments. Once again, the SDA will be at the forefront of this issue and will be promoting the interests of our members to our elected representatives.