10 April 2024

ACT Greens' legislation for two-year rental freeze, and other housing changes, rejected

| Claire Fenwicke
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Jo Clay, MLA.

ACT Greens MLA Jo Clay was particularly scathing of the other parties voting down her bill. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT Greens have failed in their bid to freeze rents in the Territory for two years, and pass a raft of other measures they said were designed to help renters.

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2024 was first introduced to the Legislative Assembly by Jo Clay in February 2024 as part of a second push to increase renters’ rights in the ACT.

Previously, the government banned no-cause evictions and rent bidding by landlords and real estate agencies, and introduced minimum rental standards.

This bill took things a step further, not only wanting a rent freeze but capping rent increases to a flat 2 per cent, banning all forms of rent bidding (including from potential tenants), tying a lease to a property rather than the tenants, and removing the provision that allows for rent increases above the cap between residential tenancies.

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ACT Labor and the Canberra Liberals weren’t buying the argument these changes would increase the rental vacancy rate and drive rent prices down.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said while he understood the Greens had a national campaign for rent freezes, the party shouldn’t try to “shoehorn” the policy into Territory settings.

“Our rental market and regulations are not like those in [other capital cities],” he said.

“Poorly designed regulations, such as the rent freezes proposed in the bill, would have the effect of reducing the supply of rental properties, exacerbating challenges for lower-income households by re-directing existing stock to owner-occupiers.”

He pointed to research from the Grattan Institute and the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute that showed “rash interventions” into the market could put renters in a more vulnerable position and that the government needed to make sure “populist ideas” didn’t have adverse consequences.

“We’re not supportive of rent freezes or further rent caps as proposed in the legislation,” Mr Barr said.

“The flaws, in both policy terms and economic terms [in this proposed legislation] … are clear.”

Mr Barr said if rent freezes had been introduced when they were first proposed, people would have been locked into higher rents than currently exist.

ACT Labor’s policy is to increase housing supply alongside what he described as “sensible” regulation.

“I think we are on the right path, but of course, there is more to do, and that ‘more to do’ is more housing supply,” Mr Barr said.

Shadow Housing Minister Mark Parton also said the Canberra Liberals wouldn’t support the proposed legislation as he believed the research showed it would achieve the opposite of what the ACT Greens wanted to achieve.

He described it as an “electoral tool for the Greens” and warned it would decrease the vacancy rate and put off mum-and-dad investors.

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Homelessness Minister Rebecca Vassarotti was one of several ACT Greens who tried to advocate for the legislation, stating that tax breaks had “rigged” the housing market to create wealth rather than provide safe places for people to live.

“The private housing market has failed,” she said.

The cost-of-living crisis has seen an uptick in people seeking homelessness and other support services, which Ms Vassarotti said was driven by a “cooked housing market” and a lack of public housing in the ACT.

“This bill stands up for the rights of renters. It stands up for the rights of people who are doing it tough,” she said.

“It has the potential to have a meaningful and a direct impact on the cost-of-living crisis.”

ACT Greens backbencher Jo Clay refuted the argument that all aspects of the bill would negatively affect the rental market.

She argued that the ACT already had a rent freeze, as ACT landlords can only put the rent up once every 12 months, and if it had come into place sooner, it wouldn’t have locked people into higher rents.

“A rent freeze is about the maximum you can charge … it doesn’t mean you have to charge the maximum,” Ms Clay said.

“This would give us emergency cost-of-living relief now.”

She expressed her disappointment that no agreement could be reached to pass at least some components of the bill.

“Neither party considered any of [our] measures on their merits and simply voted the whole package down,” Ms Clay said.

“It is clear that the old parties simply do not care about renters or, at the very least, have their head in the sand about just how hard it is for renters right now.

“In simply dismissing the bill, Labor and the Liberals have shown they are more interested in the bottom line of investor landlords than keeping a roof over renters’ heads.”

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devils_advocate6:27 pm 12 Apr 24

Everyone should remember that it is ALREADY possible for tenants to negotiate long-term leases of 7+ years if they want to

DHA have been doing it for years

This would have the added benefit of freezing rents

AND the lease would be registered on the title so even if the property were sold the tenancy would continue as is

HOWEVER tenants don’t want to so because this would limit their flexibility to leave

They want all the flexibility but none of the downsides of a rent that changes in accordance with the market

Incidental Tourist12:44 pm 12 Apr 24

There is a popular narrative that any investor pushed away from the rental property market is good news to first home buyers and renters alike. Homes will remain occupied regardless while tenants have more rights. Sounds good? Indeed this is a short term high with severe hangover.

– Any investment property sold on a secondary market is a property not built. Following latest tenancy act changes we see some 30% lesser new housing commitments than before. Coincidentally this is about the same proportion as property investors share.
– Rental property sold to a owner-occupier is one rental property less. It is a investment transfer from a poorer renter group to better off home buyer group.
– Any lost private investment property adds pressure to public housing. Greens estimated that up to $9.5 Billions is required for extra 10,000 public dwellings. If investors remained then this government did not have to spend these billions.
– Rental property sold to home owner is an immediate and permanent lost land tax revenue.
– More public houses means lost land sale revenue, extra operational costs and ongoing subsidies on top of $9.5 billions capital cost.

Following populist tenancy changes last year the new construction is sharply down. The wealth gap has widened. Pressure to government to provide public houses grows. Tenants face higher completion among themselves for less houses. Renting becomes harder and harder every year albeit on paper renters have more rights. This is how these “populist ideas … have adverse consequences”.

The ALP used to support the community and the working class but they have long since sold there sole to Geocons and the like they don’t care about renters and the homeless and this betrayal of this section of society has been layed bare by there actions here. ALP now just stands for alternative liberal party

The Greens are on another planet. How any so called leader can peddle such garbage is beyond belief. I, unfortunately, have 1 rental property in the ACT. My land tax has increased by 255% since 2018 and last year rates went up 12% and land tax 18% so clearly there is no freeze on those items, yet I can only increase rent by CPI. Not only that but go across to NSW and the unimproved value of land BEFORE land tax kicks in is around 960K whereas here it’s from the word go. Anyone even considering investing in rental property in the ACT really needs their head read. Well done Rattenbury and co.

community and the working class but they have long since sold there sole to Geocons and the like they don’t care about renters and the homeless and this betrayal of this section of society has been layed bare by there actions here. ALP now just stands for alternative liberal party

William Newby7:25 am 11 Apr 24

Greens completely disconnected from reality once again.
This is a supply and demand issue that needs to be addressed by local government. There is land in every direction here in the ACT but they want to turn this small patch of a NSW sheep paddock into some weird in-land Hong Kong.

Saying you don’t know what the term rent seeker means without saying you don’t know what the term rent seeker means…

Incidental Tourist10:30 pm 10 Apr 24

This circus is a preview of what may come after October elections. Remaining few investors will refrain from investing in real estate in Canberra as a minimum up until October election. Many sitting on the edge investors will be convinced to sell. It’s great time for first home buyers to pick a bargain as rental properties go on sale.

devils_advocate7:51 am 11 Apr 24

To the extent there are any bargains to be had, they will be picked up by better-capitalised landlords.

The greater the barriers to entry that are put up, the more consolidated will become the landlord class and the greater the division between serfs and lords.

Incidental Tourist9:19 am 11 Apr 24

Regardless who will buy into it, one appears clear. Building new rental apartments is not viable. Ironically Barr was right last year saying that the market was saturated with new land releases. The new construction was sharply down last year as there is enough bargain on the secondary market.

Incidental Tourist9:39 am 11 Apr 24

“Built to rent” push already created fertile ground for such elite landlord club.

If people are getting into the housing market that have been locked out by investors jacking up the price that’s fantastic news

GrumpyGrandpa10:28 pm 10 Apr 24

“……..stating that tax breaks had “rigged” the housing market to create wealth rather than provide safe places for people to live”.

The Greens must be from a different planet if they think that taxation incentives should be removed and that investors should be more motivated by providing safe places for people to live, as opposed to meeting their own financial obligations and building wealth over the long term.

Of course recently the Greens outlined their housing policy and that included a statement about becoming the Territory’s landlord of choice.

Grumpy Grandpa,
I’m not a Greens supporter but can’t you see how your own statements are contradictory?

Housing is about a place for people to live, not about creating investment vehicles for speculators to build wealth.

The government should only provide incentives where it meets the core objective of increasing housing provision i

Got cut off.
The government should only provide incentives to increase housing provision the cheapest, most efficient manner.

I find it very hard to see that the current incentives and taxation settings for investors are doing that in the slightest.

In fact they actively make the situation worse.

“Housing is about a place for people to live, not about creating investment vehicles for speculators to build wealth.”

Well said and spot on! The erroneous housing policy of successive governments has had a deep and profound consequence so destructive to the society.

How many landlords are freezing cold in winter not able to heat, while funding their renters to have better conditions.

At least some of the landlords worked their classes off to fund their retirement. Their investment home might be part of their super.

The next step the greens will be setting prices and forcing everyone to rent.

“How many landlords are freezing cold in winter not able to heat, while funding their renters to have better conditions.”

I don’t know, gooterz. How many, please?

If you can identify them for me then I will be happy to connect them with better financial and well-being advice, especially since they are, by your claim, funding renters rather than receiving rent. (any emojis are inadequate to this)

No you can still buy a house we encourage you too we just don’t want the rest of society too be priced out of the market and end up sleeping in cars etc so people can protect there profits, it’s pretty simple really just don’t have the attitude of I’m right screw you

That’s fine if people want to invest to fund their retirement, etc. But when they sponge off other tax payers when their “nest egg investment” doesn’t work out to give them a profitable return, it ceases to be a praiseworthy undertaking.

Labor and Liberal showing they are the party of failed discredited neoliberal trickle down economics, and rentier interests. That Adam Smith called rent seekers ‘the public enemy’ says it all really about the major parties that defend them. More minors and independents are clearly needed.

devils_advocate7:49 am 11 Apr 24

There are plenty of feasible options for reducing any economic rents (and actual rents, for that matter) that landlords collect.

Rent controls ain’t one of them. It’s been proven in many jurisdictions. It will hurt renters in the long run.

I’ll agree with that, d_a.

ah… the old classic market rents have to go up to “help” renters.

Or we could listen to UNSW cities futures researchers who say…

It is time to pursue a national agenda that goes further than previous limited reforms. The focus should be on the rights of tenants to affordable housing, in decent condition, that supports autonomy and secure occupancy.

Where landlords say it is too difficult and they will disinvest, this should not be taken as a threat. Indeed, it would be a good thing if the speculative, incapable and unwilling investors exited the sector. This would make properties available for new owner-occupiers and open up prospects for other, more committed landlords, especially non-profit providers of rental housing.

Similarly, if we had higher standards and expectations to discourage private landlords from entering the sector, that would open up scope for new owner-occupiers and investors who are less inclined to churn properties and households.

While past tenancy law reforms have not caused disinvestment, maybe the next reforms should.

“the old classic market rents have to go up to “help” renters”
Neither d_a nor I said or implied that so you commenting against your straw man (and further ones introduced) is pretty silly. Try making your comments stand on their own feet instead of on your straw prejudices.

The local Greens are a mob of pelicans. How can anyone take them seriously ?

devils_advocate3:51 pm 10 Apr 24


Greens: we’re calling for a national freeze on rental prices!

Landlords: Cool. You’re also going to freeze interest rates, general rates, land taxes and insurance premiums right? Right?

Greens: lol no

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