Landlords who rented their homes at below-market rates would be eligible for a discount on the land tax they paid, under an ACT Greens proposal to improve rental affordability in the Territory that also has support in the Canberra Liberals.
ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur will introduce a motion in the Legislative Assembly this week, with the proposal based on landlords letting their properties at 75 per cent or less of market rates.
Canberra Liberals housing spokesperson Mark Parton said he had been working on a similar proposal and the motion was likely to gain support from the Opposition, with amendments that would not detract from the crux of the motion.
“You will see some cooperation and hopefully that might inspire Labor to come to the party knowing we are on a similar page and knowing if they don’t do something they’ll look pretty silly,” Mr Parton said.
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He welcomed the Greens proposal but said the Greens had voted to increase land tax which was clearly an imposition and adding to housing unaffordability.
“Is there a rental crisis in the ACT? Yes there is, and in terms of individuals and individual families if you’re in a situation where you can’t pay the rent it’s a crisis for you,” Mr Parton said.
Ms Le Couteur said the Government was failing to deal with the issue of soaring rents and the Greens proposal encouraged socially responsible landlords to play a part in solving the affordability problem in the ACT.
“Renting out properties below market rates is a great opportunity for people who are prepared to go part of the way to help their fellow Canberrans,” she said.
Canberra now has the equal highest rents for houses in Australia, and the second highest rent for units, according to recent data from Domain.
The latest Domain Rental Report showed that the median weekly rent for a house in Canberra was $550, and the new median unit rental price $450.
Ms Le Couteur said leveraging existing private investment in property was the cheapest way to boost housing affordability in the Territory.
“Offering a land tax discount to these landlords would be an incentive and a reward for doing something concrete, and quite significant, to address the ACT’s housing affordability problem,” she said.
Ms Le Couteur said community housing providers already worked with landlords who were willing to offer their investment properties as affordable rentals, with the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services (MARSS) doing this in the ACT, Homeground Real Estate in Melbourne, and Bridge Housing in Sydney.
Ms Le Couteur said Anglicare’s 2018 rental affordability snapshot showed there were not any houses available that people relying on a Centrelink payment like Newstart, Youth Allowance or the Disability Support Pension could afford to rent.
Only 2.4 per cent of properties were affordable for families on two minimum wage incomes.
“Even after receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance, the ACT has the highest proportion of people in the private rental market who are still in rental stress according to the 2018 Report on Government Services,” she said.
“This is the reality of life for many Canberrans, but landlords aren’t necessarily the bad guys. With a little encouragement, the ACT’s landlords could be a significant piece of the puzzle as we work toward ensuring all Canberrans have a place to call home.”
Real Estate Institute ACT Chief Executive Officer Michelle Tynan said more details were needed but the principle of government providing tax offsets in order to deliver affordable housing – as was done federally through the National Rental Affordability Scheme – was something that the Institute would agree with.
“For example, it is unclear how many affordable properties would actually be provided to families on low incomes or whether it would just be a reshuffle of properties that are already on the lower end of the rental scale,” she said.
“We would also need to know why properties would need to be managed by a community housing provider instead of giving owners the choice of who they select to manage their property. But we are certainly open to discussing the proposal further and look forward to receiving more information.”