Published: May 2023

Some relief for renters in federal budget

Rent assistance rise of 15% falls short of Tenants Victoria call for 50%

Tuesday May 9, 2023

A rental housing crisis demands bold solutions of its governments.

Too many Australians in one of the wealthiest countries in the world are choosing between skipping meals each week and paying the rent. Meanwhile, homelessness rates in our state of Victoria have worsened as we continue to confront record low vacancy rates in the private rental market, where most tenants live.

‘The Albanese Government’s second budget offers some welcome relief measures after the paucity of rental housing policy responses under their predecessor, but does not make the bold calls required for our times,’ said Tenants Victoria’s CEO, Jennifer Beveridge.

‘We share the recurring heartbreak of many across the community, from economists and financial counsellors to youth workers, that the opportunity to substantially raise Jobseeker and Youth Allowance payments for all people who are unemployed has been missed. A $2.85 a day increase is inadequate.

‘But we also acknowledge that Treasurer Jim Chalmers has announced an increase in the maximum rates of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 15%, which the government says is the biggest increase in over 30 years.’

Commonwealth Rent Assistance is the subsidy for people getting a Centrelink payment who don’t live in rent-stabilised public housing.

Tenants Victoria has, along with colleague organisations, argued for an expansion in eligibility and an increase by at least 50% in the rent supplement.

Tenants Victoria also welcomes budget changes to ensure that single parents will now retain extra income-support payments until their youngest child turns 14, up from the previous cut-off of 8 years.

The reality for today’s renters, Ms Beveridge said, was that for many people renting is a permanent situation rather than a transition from the family home to home ownership – and governments at every level must respond urgently to these new demographics.

Amid the rental crisis, Tenants Victoria has tracked an increase in renters being evicted for rent arrears as well as due to their rental homes being sold.

These renters then face a real risk of homelessness due to the lack of affordable properties and the long waits to access public or community housing.

Whist there is no single silver bullet solution for the rental housing crisis more ambition is needed by all tiers of government, ranging from sustained investments in more social housing to strengthening renters rights through the National Cabinet process.

Renter snapshot

In 2021, there were nearly 9.8 million households in Australia.

Where household tenure was known:

  • 31% (2.9 million households) were renters overall
  • 26% (2.4 million households) were renting from private landlords
  • 3.0% (277,500 households) were renting from state or territory housing authorities
  • 2.4% (223,600 households) were renting from other landlords

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Further reading

Read the ABC’s analysis of the budget’s impact on housing affordability.

Read this analysis in The Conversation on the budget’s effect on poverty.

Read budget analysis by housing expert Prof. Hal Pawson.

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