31 August 2023

ACT Greens call for rent freeze and cap on increases

| Ian Bushnell
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two men and two women out the Legislative Assembly

ACTCOSS Acting CEO Gemma Killen, Better Renting Executive Director Joel Dignam, Homelessness and Housing Services Minister Rebecca Vassarotti and Greens MLA Johnathan Davis. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The ACT Greens have joined their Federal colleagues in calling for a two-year rent freeze and a 2 per cent cap on rent increases in the Territory in response to the ongoing rental squeeze and the soaring cost of living.

The cap would apply to rent increases between new tenancies and remove the mechanism allowing it to be overridden by tenancy agreements.

ACT Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury has written to the Chief Minister Andrew Barr imploring him to consider this urgent action at the Territory level, and the Greens have also written to Federal and State Housing Ministers.

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But it was Homelessness and Housing Services Minister Rebecca Vassarotti and MLA Johnathan Davis who fronted the media to argue the case for such market intervention, dismissing concerns that the measures would make the situation worse by driving away landlords and reducing supply.

Ms Vassarotti said there must be a coordinated response to the rental crisis across Australia.

She said that the ACT had the highest rents in the country, increasing more than seven times the rate of wages and that almost half of renters were in financial stress.

Mr Davis, a former real estate agent whose push for a tax on vacant properties received short shrift from Mr Barr, said that despite the handwringing from landlords, the ACT continued to be one of the best places in the country to invest in property, with the number of rental properties in the ACT increasing by 4 per cent over the past decade.

“Government does not exist to ensure that private investment in any market, let alone the property market, remains profitable and lucrative,” Mr Davis said.

“Government’s job is to eliminate homelessness. Government’s job is to make sure everyone in the richest city in the country in one of the richest countries in the world has a roof over their head and has a home.”

Ms Vassarotti said landlords had nothing to fear from these measures.

“We’re talking about having increases of rents to an element that is affordable for people,” she said.

“Landlords who are providing tenants with a good safe home will actually see benefits from these proposals as we regulate the market and ensure that people are able to maintain their tenancies.”

Both the ACT Council of Social Services and Better Renting back the Greens’ call.

Jeremy Hanson outside the Legislative Assembly

Acting Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson says the measures would be counterproductive. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

But Acting Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson said a rent freeze was madness and would just end up hurting renters more, echoing concerns from the property industry.

“It’s dangerous and reckless and will lead to more homelessness,” he said.

“What we’re going to see is more pressure on rental properties, so people will sell their properties and there’ll be less supply.”

Mr Hanson said prices would increase and it would be even harder to find rental properties.

Deputy Chief Minister and Housing Minister Yvette Berry did not dismiss the Greens’ proposal out of hand, saying the government, a landlord itself, would study the implications of any further market regulation beyond that already introduced in the ACT.

“We have previously discussed the application of rental price controls in the Territory, particularly in the context of no-cause evictions,” she said.

“The government will put in place a process to ensure we can thoroughly investigate the impacts of any further market interventions and have a fully informed government and stakeholder consideration of the issues.

“This will include particular consideration of the supply of rental properties in Canberra (eg Build to Rent) and the financial impact on Housing ACT.”

Ms Berry met with other Housing Ministers on Wednesday after National Cabinet tasked them to develop a proposal to strengthen renters’ rights across the country.

She said the ACT already had some of the strongest tenancy protections in the nation, and the government was focused on constructing more rental properties.

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“ACT Labor knows that we need to increase housing supply – that is why we continue to pursue planning reforms and large-scale build-to-rent projects to deliver that supply for the fastest growing city in the country,” Ms Berry said.

“Importantly, we are starting to see our policy response working, with the vacancy rate rising and data released indicating that while median rents across the combined capital cities increased 11.7 per cent for the 12 months to the end of April, in Canberra, dwelling rents fell 0.7 per cent.”

The vacancy rate has also eased to 2 per cent which, while still tight, is much better than a year ago when it was just 0.7 per cent.

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More government housing to compete with the private rental market would bring rental and property prices back to reality.

The sort of percentage of government VS private housing we had from the 60’s to the 80’s

It’s a massive investment but one the government could and would use as a revenue stream in the future.

They could levee some of that cost onto suburb developers. Legislate that 10% of residential area in every new suburb is developed and handed back to the government for housing.

10% of area not block numbers and have it scattered throughout the suburb. For example if you build a suburb of 500 privately owned 1000m2 blocks and 50 government housing blocks of 500m2 as that’s only 5% of residential area. If they wanted to do it that way then there would be 100 500m2 government blocks to make up the 10% area.

Bob the impala7:30 pm 10 May 23

purplevh, your opening paragraph is sound, but your discussion of means does not follow as you might wish.

“It’s a massive investment but one the government could and would use as a revenue stream in the future.”

How? If the investment is directly profitable then it is on the same terms as current sale or rental, which is no gain to those in need of housing. An investment in housing by government is expenditure. It could always be funded by removing distortionary taxation benefits beloved of certain rentiers here.

“They could levee some of that cost onto suburb developers. Legislate that 10% of residential area in every new suburb is developed and handed back to the government for housing”

Means developers raise prices 10%. See above. It takes investment. There is no free lunch, without cutting that of some.

Given the ACT government is pushing up rates, taxes, and charges in every sphere, they ought to take the lead and cut their salaries, and those of all politicians in this Territory. Then we would know they were serious about all this. Will there be a freeze on rates and Land taxes as well, for the same period as the rent freeze. Put up of shut up.

HiddenDragon7:17 pm 05 May 23

“Mr Davis, a former real estate agent whose push for a tax on vacant properties received short shrift…”

Subject to specified exemptions, owners of vacant properties are already liable for land tax, so that “push” was presumably for an additional tax, or a higher rate of land tax for vacant properties –


If Canberra is subject to the same phenomenon as some other cities, with foreign buyers purchasing properties primarily as a means of parking money beyond the reach of their home government, but with no compelling interest in deriving a rental income from those properties, a somewhat higher land tax surcharge for foreign owners might be worth looking at along with close study of Singapore’s policies on that subject.

Agree, foreign buyers who do not live in Australia or pay tax here should pay a much higher land tax surcharge. Or a better idea is to ban foreign buyers altogether. It is wrong for foreigners to buy up Australian land and housing, when there are so many Australian citizens being made homeless in their own country.

devils_advocate9:40 am 08 May 23

The idea that “foreign buyers” are driving up prices is a myth.

“Foreigners” as defined under the foreign acquisitions and takeovers act are individuals with no residency status and who have no expectation of permanency. They are prohibited from acquiring existing residential real estate and enforcement of this rule was stepped up significantly in 2012.

Temporary residents must divest property if they leave.

Non-residents can buy NEW residential real estate and often subscribe to large off-the-plan developments, limited to 50% of total units and – importantly- they provide the critical mass for these developments to go ahead, thus ADDING to the total supply of housing

The ACT already has rental caps (frozen at CPI increase).
A freeze on rents will only work if all land taxes, rates, insurances and other fees are ‘frozen’ too…

Should this work both ways? Freeze means no change so if there is a significant recession where rents would normally fall, investors would now have locked in returns for the next few years? If so may not be bad policy by the Greens.

Seriously, brain dead people, yeah thats fair on owners

Fantastic idea. We need to drive property hoarders out of the market and free up these homes for owner occupiers.

I’m not sure why you are assuming everyone can get a home loan and be an owner occupier. It’s quite hard to get a mortgage. Banks simply won’t lend to some people (for various reasons including low income, limited work history, bad credit, no savings etc.). And some people move to a new city and want to rent first (and check out areas) before buying. Plus there are international students and others who DO want to rent, and are not interested in being an owner occupier. It’s unrealistic to assume everyone wants to be an owner occupier (or that the bank will approve them).

So glad I do not own a rental property in the ACT. The landtax alone is a turnoff and to have some idiots coming up with the idea of a controlled market is concerning, especially for someone who grew up barely a hundred kilometres from the iron curtain!

Yes a rent freeze and how about we add a 30% reduction in rates and land tax for landlords to share the pain. After all that is why rents are high in Canberra.

Spot on, such a dumb *** idea from the Greens

Will the Greens refuse pay rises for themselves for doing SFA? Thought not

Grow your own dope. Plant a Greens Party member.

According to his Greens profile page, MLA Rattenbury studied economics at the ANU. What happened to his basic understanding of economics between then and now?

Clever Interrobang11:17 am 05 May 23

It won’t work, obviously

The only real solution is public housing, which, if there was enough of it, would put downward pressure on private rental anyway

devils_advocate12:25 pm 05 May 23

I look forward to next week’s brainwave when they argue to regulate builder’s margins lmao

Will they also freeze the interest rates the bank charges the owner on their loan ?

devils_advocate10:12 am 05 May 23


Setting prices centrally in this manner is compulsorily acquisition.

It’s a bold strategy cotton, let’s see how it plays out

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