Many Australians are set to be booted from their homes come September unless there are major interventions, more than 70 cross-society organisations and frontline housing services have warned.
In an open letter to be delivered to National Cabinet on Wednesday, high-profile organisations like ACOSS, Anglicare, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, GetUp, St Vincent De Paul and tenant unions are calling on the federal government to urgently extend rental protections.
The letter recommends:
- A temporary freeze on rent increases
- Banning evictions for rental arrears
- Direct financial help to tenants who would struggle to afford rent
- Genuine bank relief for landlords.
“We welcomed the National Cabinet announcement on 29 March committing to a moratorium on evictions for six months for residential tenants who are unable to meet their rental payments,” the letter reads.
“However, the response has been inconsistent across Australia, and no jurisdiction has gone far enough to provide adequate support for renters.
“Governments have already stepped up to protect the health of our community. We call on you to step up now to protect the wellbeing of people who rent.”
Without protections, many Australians risk losing their homes and sliding into debt when JobKeeper ends and the JobSeeker payment is halved in September, the advocates say.
Adelaide renter Amelia Chaplin, 24, lost both her hospitality jobs when COVID-19 hit.
Her landlord has refused to give her a rental reduction, and she’s worried after September she will have no options but to move back in with her father in the country.
“Basically end of March I lost both hospitality jobs,” she said.
“We emailed our landlord, saying we’re losing our jobs. We’re not sure what will happen moving forward.
“We got an email a week later, the landlord isn’t going to consider negotiating at all. You still need to pay full rent.
“The Prime Minister said we should have a negotiation. We would like a bit of compassion. It was either like we pay rent and have no money or don’t pay and have food.”
In protest, they stopped paying their rent for four weeks.
Now that they’re on full Centrelink payments they’re repaying the accrued debt, but worry about what will happen in September.
“I have a lot of anxiety about it. If payments go down to $500 a fortnight, I’ll be spending 80 per cent of my income on rent. It doesn’t really leave much else for bills or food,” Ms Chaplin said.
“I’m pretty fine at the moment, but come September or before if they wind back the stimulus, it’s really scary.”
Better Renting executive director Joel Dignam says the government should tweak policies to ensure people can stay in their homes.
“The test of government action is whether it ensures that people who rent can stay in their homes and out of debt,” he said.
“But we’re hearing countless stories of renters who are exhausting their savings, draining their super, or skipping meals so they can keep paying rent. This is unacceptable.
“Unfortunately, too many renters are afraid to ask for reduced rent, and too many landlords are unwilling to negotiate in good faith. Many renters are being loaded up with debt.
“We need governments to act before September to avoid a ‘second wave’ of evictions.”