‘The Housing System Is Broken’: The National Inquiry Into Australia’s Rental Crisis Is Here

The first ever National Inquiry Into The Rental Crisis tabled its report this week and revealed the crisis is having an enormous negative impact on Australians struggling with high rents, few rentals, and overcrowded homes.

The inquiry received submissions from more than 16,000 people, including 9,000 submissions from renters. 

Renters reported difficulties securing housing, high rents, low tenure security and durations, poor accomodation standards and barriers to enforcement of their rights.

Amity, a witness who appeared at a public hearing in Sydney, told the inquiry she was seeing increasingly unsafe housing and homelessness due to a scarcity of rentals.

“More and more people are moving back in with their parents if their parents have stable housing and room for them,” she said.

“We’ve also seen people couch surfing and living in cars, caravans and motels and sleeping rough.”

Other witnesses shared similar experiences, with the report saying that the rental crisis is “ultimately a human crisis, not a fiscal one”.

Committee chair and Greens Senator Janet Rice said the report made clear that current reforms had failed to address rising rents or a shortfall of affordable homes.

“We must strengthen the rights of renters across the country,” she said in a statement.

“Unlimited rent increases should be illegal. Renters shouldn’t be treated like second-class citizens and live in complete insecurity, at the whims of their real estate agencies or landlords.

“Fixing this means strengthened and consistent renters’ rights across the country.”

Although the committee acknowledged it hadn’t yet finished looking through all supplied evidence, it had already made two recommendations to the government. The first was that it must guarantee stronger rental rights that protect renters and achieve minimum standards for rental properties, and the second was that governments must urgently increase investments in public and affordable housing.

Speaking on the report Maiy Azize, a spokesperson for activist housing group Everybody’s Home, said the government needed to act by listening to renters. She accused senators of ignoring evidence on the need to limit rent increases, protecting renters’ rights, and reducing Australia’s reliance on private landlords.

“The housing system in Australia is broken and renters are paying the price. Unaffordable rents, insecure tenancies, inadequate rights – everything is working against a cohort of Australians who are growing in number and increasingly finding themselves renting for life,” she said in a statement.

“The experts, advocates and ordinary Australians who came before the committee were clear – rentals must be affordable, decent and safe.

The committee will continue to review its evidence and has said it will reconvene in Melbourne in the near future.