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Motion: Affordability of Renting in South Australia

12 May 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:02): I will be brief. I have only been here a short time, but I worry that members may already be sick of hearing the sound of my voice this week. This motion is a timely one. It relates to the need to strengthen the protection for renters in South Australia. Last night, we saw the federal Treasurer hand down his annual budget with not a single dollar invested in social housing infrastructure—not a single dollar.

While housing has traditionally been seen as a state issue, what we need to see is leadership from the federal Liberal government to establish a range of incentives to encourage investment in social and affordable housing. There is no such investment of course, and we know that South Australia has missed out once again. In my first speech in this place last week, I spoke about the housing crisis that is gripping our state. During this one-in-100-year pandemic, in the middle of the worst economic crisis in a generation, it is vitally important that we make this a priority.

I understand that tomorrow this parliament will be dealing with a bill relating to ceasing the moratorium on evictions for people experiencing rental stress but also ceasing the rent capping for those experiencing rental stress. We need to extend those protections and ensure that vulnerable South Australians, those on the lowest incomes, those who are renting, have the protections that they need so that they are not cast out onto the street and so that they do not face eviction.

According to Anglicare Australia's 2021 rental affordability snapshot, there was not a single rental property in South Australia that a person on JobSeeker could afford—not a single one. Well, that is an absolute disgrace, and that is out of 1,788 private rental properties advertised on 26 March. Not a single property was considered affordable for a person on JobSeeker—what an outrage that is! The report also found that there were no affordable properties for those on youth allowance, with just 4 per cent of properties considered affordable for families with both parents on JobSeeker—just 4 per cent.

In South Australia, the cost of rental house prices continues to rise significantly. In Adelaide, there has been a 2.1 per cent increase over the past month, and a 7.2 per cent increase over the last year; in the Murraylands, a 3.3 per cent increase over the past month and a 10.5 per cent increase over the past year; northern SA, a 9.9 per cent increase over the past month and an 11.9 per cent increase over the past year; and, in southern SA, a 4.5 per cent increase over the past month and a 21 per cent increase over the past year. So, again, we are seeing South Australians being hard hit by spiralling rent prices. As I said in my first speech, South Australians should not be required to accept a housing system that puts private greed above the public good—it is not acceptable.

Protection of renters is not something new, and it is not something that belongs to a particular side of politics. It is worth noting that, during the Great Depression, greater protection for renters resulted in policies like rent control at a state level. At a federal level, too, the Menzies government introduced rent control in 1939. Then it was the Curtin Labor government that fixed rents at 1940 levels. You could argue that the situation we face at the moment in the middle of this economic crisis is remarkably similar to that of the 1940s, yet we have no commitment from the federal government, and the state government seems to be asleep at the wheel.

While the moratoriums on evictions will delay the pain, and the Greens are seeking to extend the moratorium due to expire at the end of the month by another 12 months, that is not the long-term solution to the rental crisis that grips our state. We need to invest in social housing and we need the state Liberal government to step up to the plate and do that, and we need to legislate for rent controls so that we can protect the most vulnerable people in our community from rent increases. It works in places like New York; why are we not doing it here in South Australia? Why are we not ensuring that everybody has a roof over their head and a place to call home? Why do we not recognise that housing is a human right in our state?