The big Australian dream now is to be able to afford the rent

For too long the measure of success in Australia has been owning a home with a back yard and a Hills lift. The quarter-acre block with enough space beyond the three or four bedrooms to accommodate a BBQ, makeshift cricket pitch, and maybe even a pool. But the Great Australian Dream is no longer about owning a home, it’s about being able to afford the rent.

The first Resolve Political Monitor poll for the herald because the election in March leaves little doubt about that. A growing number of NSW voters are concerned about skyrocketing rents. Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of voters say rising food prices and energy bills are the biggest pressures on their household budgets.

Budding Australian homeowners were hung out to dry.

Budding Australian homeowners were hung out to dry. Credit: one

But the number of voters who mention paying rent on their list of concerns is increasing. It is now the top concern for a quarter of NSW voters. That’s a staggering figure considering the latest census data shows that around 30 per cent of people in New South Wales rent their homes. More than half of these are families with children (either couples with children or single parents). And more than 250,0000 tenants are over 60 years old.

The Sydney housing crisis is getting worse as apartment and house rents continue to rise with no end in sight. The average asking rent for units jumped a staggering 24 percent to $620 a week in the year to March, the fastest annual growth on record, according to last month’s Domain Rent Report. Add to that a vacancy rate of less than 1 percent, and the situation is dire.

The Reserve Bank, normally known for breaking bad news about rate hikes, got involved in the rent crisis last month. “Rental stress is at least as big a problem as mortgage stress right now,” Governor Philip Lowe said.

The housing crisis, particularly for tenants, will be a political baptism of fire for Prime Minister Chris Minns. He made a start. His government has enacted legislation to stop secret rental listings and will allow transferability deposits so tenants can transfer them when moving from one property to another.

A vacancy notice has been published for a new rent inspector and sometime this year the new government will take action to ban unlawful evictions. Renters are also getting more pet ownership rights, a small but important step in making a house feel like a home.

What Minns won’t do, however, is follow the ACT model of rent caps. There, landlords are not allowed to increase the rent by more than 10 percent above the consumer price index without justification. With interest rates rising, Minns is reluctant to put additional pressure on mortgage holders.

Justin Scaccy

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