This week, the ACT government introduced its latest bill to reform tenancy laws.

This bill builds on many changes made over the past four years. While these changes have been material, many renters in Canberra are still struggling. As we look to a new year, and our MLAs look to an election less than two years away, what might the future hold for action on renting?

Since 2018, ACT rental laws have changed in various ways. Renters now have stronger rights to have pets or to make small changes to their home. Renters on a periodic tenancy have better protections against excessive rent increases.

It's easier for people to join or leave a cotenancy. The government's new bill will end unfair no-cause evictions, and a minimum ceiling insulation standard will come into effect from April 1, 2023.

That's a lot of activity, and I'm grateful to the MLAs and their staffs, public servants, community advocates, and the countless renters who have spoken out for change in different ways. But just this week the 2023 rental affordability index confirmed Canberra remains prohibitively expensive for many.

This doesn't just put household budgets under stress: it also means renters are more likely to experience forced moves or to put up with poor conditions to avoid retaliation. There's still a long way to go.

Why should we keep going? Increasingly, our elected officials and the ACT community recognise while a rental property is a landlord's asset, at the same time it's somebody else's home. More people are renting long-term in the ACT, including renting in retirement or renting with children. All these people deserve decent, secure, affordable homes.

Action on rental laws is one way to achieve this.

So with some runs on the board, what more can the ACT government do in coming years?

For homes to be affordable, there needs to be more of them, especially with our growing population.

Our Chief Minister seems genuine about wanting a higher vacancy rate and using build-to-rent to increase the supply of rental dwellings in the ACT. We also see more advocacy for planning reform to develop the missing middle in Canberra.

This could help more current renters to become owners, taking some competition out of the rental market. We should aim to preserve amenity - and also to share that amenity with a younger generation looking for affordable medium-density housing options.

Another way to improve housing supply is to improve the utilisation of existing housing stock. Jurisdictions across the world have been regulating short-term rental accommodation as a way to ensure more housing options for long-term community members.

It's unclear how much difference this might ultimately make in the ACT, but the government should be exploring it.

With so many negative externalities from short-term letting, the government has a responsibility to step in and regulate it.

But no matter how many extra rentals there are, each renter is still subject to the whims of their landlord.

So it's important we continue to improve security for renters by looking at laws around evictions. Ending no-cause evictions is an excellent step - more than any other Australian jurisdiction has done. But with-cause terminations are still disruptive and costly, and sometimes lessors exploit them.

Better Renting has previously suggested mandatory compensation for no-fault terminations as a measure that would discourage frivolous terminations and cushion the financial blow of having to move home.

Another thing that can force people to move home is unaffordable rental increases.

Action on supply and eviction laws will help here. But the government should intervene more directly when the private market is so evidently failing to adequately provide for the basic need for housing.

A straightforward percentage cap on rent increases is much simpler than the current messy system.

It should also apply to lease renewals and across tenancies, to avoid giving landlords a perverse incentive to try to kick out tenants to increase rents.

READ MORE CANBERRA RENTAL NEWS:

Rent control feels novel in Australia, but on a recent visit to New York City to study rental issues, I was struck by how many working-class renters could afford to remain in their homes over decades. This is due to rent control laws, combined with good-cause eviction protections. Surely if NYC can do this, despite being the heart of a global capital, Canberra can, too?

It's been a big two years for the current ACT Assembly, and some great changes are in the pipeline for the many people renting their homes. But this journey is just beginning. With rents shooting up, there is a risk poorer members are displaced from our community.

Instead, let's make sure action on housing supply, short-term rental accommodation, and tenancy reform helps to ensure a housing system that works for all territory residents.

QOSHE - Positive changes for ACT renters need to go even further - Joel Dignam
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

Positive changes for ACT renters need to go even further

6 0 0
04.12.2022

This week, the ACT government introduced its latest bill to reform tenancy laws.

This bill builds on many changes made over the past four years. While these changes have been material, many renters in Canberra are still struggling. As we look to a new year, and our MLAs look to an election less than two years away, what might the future hold for action on renting?

Since 2018, ACT rental laws have changed in various ways. Renters now have stronger rights to have pets or to make small changes to their home. Renters on a periodic tenancy have better protections against excessive rent increases.

It's easier for people to join or leave a cotenancy. The government's new bill will end unfair no-cause evictions, and a minimum ceiling insulation standard will come into effect from April 1, 2023.

That's a lot of activity, and I'm grateful to the MLAs and their staffs, public servants, community advocates, and the countless renters who have spoken out for change in different ways. But just this week the 2023 rental affordability index confirmed Canberra remains prohibitively expensive for many.

This doesn't just put household budgets under stress: it also means renters are more likely to experience forced moves or to put........

© Canberra Times


Get it on Google Play