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Extending the COVID-19 Moratorium on Rental Evictions

13 May 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:24): The Greens have a number of questions that we will be asking in relation to this bill in committee. My colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks has indicated that she will have a number of questions to raise. One of the issues that I intend to raise that I have concerns with in this bill relates to clause 3, and that is the provisions that relate to the moratorium on evictions and on rent increases.

Those provisions were put in place in response to the economic crisis faced by vulnerable South Australians. I welcome the fact that the government did put those protections in place because we know that vulnerable South Australians, particularly those who are renting, have been really hard hit by the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis. But those provisions will come to an end. I know the government has talked about extending it for a month, up until June, but that really is not good enough, and that is one of the significant concerns the Greens have.

I take this opportunity to read into Hansard some of the stories of renters during this economic crisis, because I think it is very important that people understand the implications of not extending this moratorium. In the committee stage I will be moving to amend the bill so that we extend those protections for another 12 months, up until May next year.

I refer to a news article published on Thursday 15 October on ABC online by the national social affairs reporter, Norman Hermant, and the specialist reporting team's Lucy Kent. This was looking at renters and at the impact of the pandemic on that cohort. The headline reads, 'Renters skipping meals and paying bills late to afford rent during coronavirus pandemic, study finds'. The article goes on to say:

Researchers behind the biggest ever snapshot of Australian renters suspected they would see a big impact from COVID-19 in their survey, but they did not realise how large it would be. 'The first thing that really struck me is the absolute scale of the effect of COVID-19, and how it has affected people's lives', Emma Baker, professor of housing research at the University of Adelaide, said.

More than a third of people were doing things like not being able to pay their bills and skipping meals. Lots of people were affected by things like not being able to pay their rent, but also what came up was this risk of eviction and not knowing what was going to happen.

So people not being able to pay their rent on time, people being in fear of eviction and people living under a cloud of uncertainty. This was a significant study by the Australian Research Council, a survey of 15,000 renters and households in July and August of last year.

This moratorium on rent increases and evictions has thrown those people a temporary lifeline, and the government is talking about pulling the rug out from under them in the middle of the worst economic crisis in a generation, in the middle of this one-in-100-year pandemic. That is something the Greens are very concerned about and I intend to talk further about this in the committee stage.