Pressure is mounting for national cabinet to come up with a better deal for renters and a solution to the country’s housing crisis when the country’s leaders meet on Wednesday.
With Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expected to also state his case for a nationally agreed upon public holiday in the event the Matildas win the FIFA World Cup final, housing affordability and renters rights are set to dominate the meeting in Brisbane.
The Greens will be watching the outcome carefully, with their support for Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund largely hinging on what national cabinet agrees on.
It comes after the Councils of Social Service network, which represents thousands of the country’s social services, wrote to Mr Albanese, premiers and chief ministers, warning of “distressing levels of housing need” being experienced across the country.
“There are over 640,000 low-income Australian households with an unmet housing need, people who are homeless, living in overcrowded housing or spending more than 30 per cent of income on rent,” the letter said.
“Our frontline service organisations are witnessing distressing levels of housing need. The rental crisis requires immediate attention.”
The council called on law reform to “limit rental increases, prevent no-grounds evictions and ensure homes are energy efficient”.
The Greens too want national cabinet to come up with solutions for renters in exchange for their support of the proposed $10bn HAFF, which Labor says will deliver 30,000 social and affordable homes in its first five years.
The Greens blocked the fund earlier this year and say they will only support its second attempt next month if the government makes serious adjustments to its Bill.
Specifically, the minor party has been calling on a national rent freeze as well as more rights for tenants and even greater social and affordable housing funding.
While Mr Albanese has ruled out a rent freeze, national cabinet could agree on a nationally agreed upon limit on rent hikes.
He said he was confident national cabinet would support the Commonwealth’s deal on housing supply and increased rental support.
“We all know that housing supply is the key. We all know as well that they have renters who need more rights, but it can’t be done in a way that actually dampens housing supply,” Mr Albanese said on Tuesday.
Currently, landlords can raise rents only once a year in all states bar Western Australia and the Northern Territory, where they can raise them every six months – however, WA earlier this year announced that would change to every 12 months.
Greens housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather said the idea of limiting hikes alone was an “unambitious” reform that would leave renters still too exposed to unlimited rent increases and “unfair evictions”.
He said the national cabinet needed to instead consider price caps on rent increases or risk no-grounds evictions to continue under the proviso of “massive rental increases”.
“Unlimited rent increases once a year are still unlimited rent increases, and landlords can and will use unfair rent increases to kick tenants out or push them into financial stress,” Mr Chandler-Mather said.
“If this is where national cabinet lands tomorrow, then renters outside of WA and NT will see almost zero change to their rights: Everyone in the country outside the ACT will still be exposed to unlimited rent increases and unfair evictions.
“With wall-to-wall Labor governments across the mainland, national cabinet could have given renters reprieve from unfair rental increases months ago. So if this is where national cabinet lands tomorrow, every rent increase from tomorrow onwards is on Labor.”
On Tuesday, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said there were other ways the government could make a difference to renters than a limit on rent increases.
“We’re in the cart for anything which makes sense, which is affordable and methodical and considered,” he said.
“We’ve shown a willingness already, with the billions of dollars that we’re investing, that we’re prepared to play our part.”
While housing will dominate Wednesday’s agenda, Mr Albanese is also expected to use his time with the state and territory leaders to campaign for a national public holiday in the event the Matildas win the Women’s World Cup final.
NSW Premier Chris Minns has emphatically thrown his support behind the idea, while other state and territory leaders have yet to do so.
The Matildas will play England in the semi finals on Wednesday night.
The winner will play in the final against Spain in Sydney on Sunday night.