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Housing crisis prompts parties to promise protections for renters

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Charities have welcomed a pledge from the major parties and Greens to extend protections for renters from forced evictions with no legal appeals.
Charities have welcomed a pledge from the major parties and Greens to extend protections for renters from forced evictions with no legal appeals.

As NSW voters prepare to go to the polls in a tightly-contested state election on 25 March, the Coalition, Labor and the Greens have all agreed to extending protections for renters from forced evictions with no legal appeals, in a move that has been welcomed by charity organisations.

The commitments came at a community forum in Parramatta attended by over 900 people, organised by the Sydney Alliance on 28 February with Treasurer Matt Kean representing the Coalition, Shadow Treasurer Daniel Mookhey representing Labor and Newtown MP, Jenny Leong, representing the Greens.

In his address to the forum, Mr Mookhey committed a Labor government to end no-grounds evictions for both fixed-term and periodic or month-to-month tenancies, emphasising that NSW was the only state to retain these unfair laws.

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“No tenant should be forced to leave their homes without a lawful reason and we also believe that surplus government land should be set aside for social and affordable housing, with a target of 30 per cent of housing in NSW set aside for social and affordable housing”, he said.

Ms Leong said the Greens believe there should be an immediate freeze on all rents in NSW, given concerns that housing has become too profit-driven and growing numbers of Sydneysiders are facing housing stress.

“They’re also often worried about finding another rental property given there is a big shortage at the moment which can make them quite anxious to stay on the right side of their landlords.”

“We want to see rent controls in NSW that will allow independent setting of rents, so that people don’t have to live with the stress of ever increasing rental costs and the threat of unfair no-grounds evictions,” she said.

Mr Kean said a re-elected Coalition government would change “no grounds” to “reasonable grounds” for periodic or month-to-month tenancies, but would allow no grounds evictions for fixed-term tenancies and would extend the notice period for tenants from 30 to 45 days.

The acting manager of policy and advocacy with the St Vincent De Paul Society, Solange Frost, has welcomed the commitments on forced evictions, saying the current laws tended to make tenants reluctant to speak out to their landlords about rental increases or even on the need for repair work, for fear of being evicted.

“They’re also often worried about finding another rental property given there is a big shortage at the moment which can make them quite anxious to stay on the right side of their landlords,” she added.

Some of those attending the election forum said finding a rental property can be a struggle in itself, let alone then facing the insecurity of potential eviction.

Emilia Nicholas from the Josephite Justice Network shared some of the great struggles her family has faced accessing affordable housing.

“For the past 13 years, my Lebanese grandmother has been on the waiting list for social housing and throughout these long years, she has had to reapply and resubmit her application for social housing several times,” she said.

In his address to the forum, Mr Mookhey committed a Labor government to end no-grounds evictions for both fixed-term and periodic or month-to-moth tenancies, emphasising that NSW was the only state to retain these unfair laws.
In his address to the forum, Mr Mookhey committed a Labor government to end no-grounds evictions for both fixed-term and periodic or month-to-month tenancies, emphasising that NSW was the only state to retain these unfair laws.

“My grandmother’s ill health has been greatly exacerbated as a result of the stress and uncertainty caused by this vicious cycle of endless resubmissions and ambiguity.

“Not only is she waiting endlessly to get into social housing, but she also continues to live in a rental that is below minimum standards … A house that is a sweltering inferno in summer, freezing cold in winter and infested with mould any time after rain comes.

“Witnessing my grandmother silently struggle with her ailing health and disappointing living situation makes me angry. I feel betrayed by my own state government.

“How can such poor-quality living standards be a reality for so many living in one of the world’s richest democracies?”

The St Vincent De Paul Society said there are currently over 57,000 people on the social housing waiting list in NSW with an average waiting time of 5-10 years.

“the st vincent de paul society said there are currently over 57,000 people on the social housing waiting list in NSW WITH AN AVERAGE WAITING TIME OF 5-10 YEARS”.

Alongside housing pressures, the forum also discussed the high cost of living pressures many face across NSW, with the society reporting a 20 per cent increase in calls for assistance in the first quarter of this financial year.

Mr Kean said the Coalition acknowledges many families are facing growing financial stress and it is committed to providing an immediate rebate for all consumers of $250 on their energy bills, as well as other initiatives to make energy more affordable and sustainable at the same time.

“We have an ‘energy bill buster’ program which is supporting people to upgrade their household appliances to energy efficient appliances, which we announced in last year’s budget,” he said.

“You can upgrade appliances like stoves and washing machines to ensure you get more energy efficient products”.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney’s Justice and Peace Office supported the forum, alongside other community groups.

Its social justice facilitator, Dr Michael Walker, said while initiatives like the ‘energy bill buster’ program have been well intentioned, they have tended to benefit homeowners and landlords and the cost benefits haven’t necessarily flowed onto renters.

He said while consumers can certainly make savings if they look around for the best deal on their electricity bills, some consumers, especially from a non-English speaking background may need extra support to access the information they need.

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