7 April 2020

Probing the polls: the West Basin land swap and deferred or reduced rentals

| Genevieve Jacobs
Start the conversation

Should rents be deferred instead of reduced during the COVID crisis? Photo: File.

As the COVID-19 crisis dominates the news cycle, some other major news stories have been muted, including the land swap deal between the ACT Government and the NCA.

The NCA has agreed to allow the Government to acquire land for its planned West Basin development and, in turn, will acquire most of the North Curtin horse paddocks for further embassy sites.

We asked Should the government be allowed to swap the Curtin horse paddocks for West Basin?

949 RiotACT readers responded. Your options were to vote No, West Basin and the horse paddocks both matter in the Bush Capital. This option received 63 per cent of the total votes cast, or 602.

Alternatively, you could vote Yes, it makes sense. Keeping that land empty was never viable in the long term. This received 37 per cent of the total or 347 votes.

This week we’re wondering whether you agree that the real estate industry should defer rather than reduce rents.

When asked about real estate agents pushing for rent deferrals in lieu of rent reductions with affected tenants, Chief Minister Andrew Barr emptied a proverbial bucket on the industry.

“I don’t think the Real Estate Institute gets it at the moment,” Mr Barr said.

“I do need to repeat this: the pain is going to be shared by everyone. There is no world that landlords skate through this without experiencing some pain, and it is more than just deferrals, it has to be about rent reductions.”

But the real estate industry says the rental picture is more complex than Mr Barr’s comments would suggest. They argue that every circumstance is different and it is up to landlords whether they want to defer rent or waive it.

Some landlords want to waive rent because they are in the financial position to do so, but others are concerned about knock-on effects and whether they can still evict repeat offenders with a long history of failing to pay.

Zardoz said “Here’s my situation: Kids have left home; mortgage is paid off; madly saving for retirement which will be in about three years … Planning to downsize we bought another property last year and have tenants in it while we prepare our existing home for sale. That new property is mortgaged to 90% but will be fully paid off when our existing home is sold… rent is only covering the interest with us paying down some principal each month. So now can our tenants stop paying rent and let us cover their housing expenses from our pocket? It doesn’t seem fair”

But Br8ton thought otherwise: “Landlords need to realise they too are living through the biggest economic crisis since the great depression and they are not immune. Sure, you can kick out your tenants when the lease ends but will you find someone to take the place quickly? ”

Our question for this week is:

Should rents be reduced or deferred during the COVID-19 crisis?

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