Skip navigation

Pages tagged "Housing and Urban Development"

Question: Third party rental application groups

3 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to a minister in this place, the Attorney-General, on the topic of renter background checks.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: This morning, the ABC reported that renters are being told that they must pay for background checks when applying for rental properties. In the case of the 2Apply third-party app renters are required to use to provide background information, the ABC reports that their form asks for extensive private information, including the model of their car. The ABC further claims that renters are being told their star rating as an applicant would be capped at four out of five stars if they do not pay for their own background check.

Landlords and estate agencies are increasingly turning to third-party organisations, such as 2Apply and Equifax, for these background checks. 2Apply's terms and conditions, available on their website, describe these payments and features of the platform, claiming: 'From time to time, the interface may offer additional features for a fee. These features will be labelled as "paid".' Renters are not required to pay for these features, but they cannot achieve a five-star rating without them.

My question to the Attorney-General therefore is: does the government consider it unreasonable for renters to have to pay to receive a five-star rating when applying for a home? What is the government doing to ensure people are fairly treated by these third-party organisations?

 

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his question and his regular interest and advocacy in the area of the rights of consumers, particularly renters and rental affordability.

A lot of what the honourable member is asking will fall within the purview of my colleague, the Minister for Consumer and Business Affairs, but also I think there are elements that pertain to privacy for individuals and how information is used that comes into my portfolio area. I don't have any information on this and I haven't heard of this before but, to protect individuals, it is something I am happy to look into.

I am happy to work with my colleague, the Minister for Consumer and Business Affairs, to understand what the situation is in South Australia if potential renters are being unfairly treated because of a requirement to pay money to obtain a certain rating on a report to have a preferential go at obtaining a rental. I will be happy to bring back a reply to the honourable member. This may take a little bit of time, but it is an important issue and I am very happy to look into it.


Question: Supporting those experiencing homelessness due to flooding in the Riverland

20 October 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of homelessness in the Riverland.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the honourable Minister for Climate, Environment and Water, Susan Close, provided a ministerial statement on the forecast high flows and rainfall expected in the River Murray over the next few months. In her statement, the minister highlighted that it is the highest seen since 1974, nearly 50 years ago, and it's likely to affect South Australian communities living in the Riverland.

Earlier this month, the Local Government Association of South Australia called on the state government to address regional housing issues, given so many people are struggling to find homes. According to homelessness advocate Shane Maddocks, the chief executive of ac.care, regional towns are on the 'precipice of an unprecedented homelessness crisis'. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data on homelessness estimates that 344 people are experiencing homelessness in the Murray and Mallee regions where high flows are predicted. With high flows and wet weather expected while some people are sleeping rough and in tents, my questions to the minister are:

1. How many people are currently sleeping rough in areas where high flows and wet weather are predicted?

2. What is the government doing to protect those experiencing homelessness in the regions that could be affected?

 

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his important question. Some of that detail I will need to get from the minister in the other place and bring that back to the chamber, which I am happy to do. However, in a general sense for background, it might be worth placing on the record some of the other information around the housing situation in terms of the rising waters of the River Murray.

I am told that the South Australian Housing Authority has advised that there are not any public housing properties in the Riverland immediately at risk from flooding, but of course the agency continues to monitor that situation in consultation with the various other agencies that are looking at the issues around flooding.

The South Australian Housing Authority is also responsible for emergency relief during major incidents and is represented at the State Emergency Centre to coordinate with other agencies. It's one of the agencies that has been represented on the emergency support team that I referred to in one of my earlier answers, of which PIRSA is also a member. That support team has been meeting for the last six weeks and will continue to do so as required.

As part of the emergency relief responsibilities, the South Australian Housing Authority has identified locations for emergency relief centres if they are required in coming weeks and months. Of course, we hope that they are not, but if they are, they have already identified locations. They have identified hotels and motels in affected areas and they have contact details in the event of activating large-scale emergency accommodation.

They have also contacted organisations like Lions and Rotary, which may be asked to assist in emergency relief work. I am also advised that the authority will work with the local homelessness service provider to conduct assertive outreach to vulnerable communities along the riverbank. Those are some of the actions currently underway, and I will take the remaining questions and refer them to the appropriate minister in the other place.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: can the minister confirm what arrangements are in place for those who are sleeping in tents who cannot be contacted by government agencies?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I would expect that the assertive outreach to which I referred is probably incorporating that into their work. We know there are vulnerable communities but also others who may not have ready contact, so that sort of assertive outreach is part of that. Again, if there is additional information I can provide once I have referred it to the minister in the other place I will do so.

 

Reply received on 20 November:

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Human Services has advised:

I am advised that leaders from the SA Housing Authority and Country South Homelessness Alliance visited the region on Tuesday 25 October to coordinate response.

Five people rough sleeping in Berri and six people rough sleeping in Murray Bridge with government and non-government staff working together to accommodate this group.


Question: Security of Renters Information

19 October 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of data protection.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last month the data breach at Optus left millions of customers vulnerable to scams and identity theft. At a renters' forum I held last month, renters raised concerns about the safety of their data in the wake of the Optus breach. Renters are often required to provide their driver's licence, bank statement, employment history, rental history, passport and the number of their dog's microchip (if indeed they have one). If renters refuse to provide any information the landlord or property manager asks for, they will not be considered for a rental home.

On 4 October The Guardian Australia reported on this issue and claimed that the culture of data hoarding by the real estate sector undermines the right of privacy and worsens the power imbalances between renters and landlords. My questions to the Attorney-General are:

1. What assurances can the government provide that the personal data of renters is being protected?

2. Will the government be legislating to protect the personal data of renters as part of their review of the Residential Tenancies Act?

 

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his question. It is an important one. I think many people have been horrified at what they have seen with the Optus data breach and I know that as a government we have discussed it. I think my colleague the member for West Torrens, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, as the Minister for Transport, has put in place people being able to get their licence reissued for free. I think that is a sensible initiative of the government for people who, through no fault of their own, can have their identities compromised, to have a new and different licence to be issued at no cost of their own.

It is an interesting question because, of course, other jurisdictions, most notably European jurisdictions, have, as I understand it, very significant sanctions for data breaches as occurred with Optus. I just don't have the information in front of me, but there are specific instructions and guidelines in terms of data that the government holds and sanctions for that, but in terms of data that private entities, whether they be rental companies, real estate companies, strata corporations hold, I am happy to look to see what we can do in relation to a review of acts that include rental provisions to see if there is a way to include those in those.

 

Reply Received on 30 November 2022:

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): The Minister for Consumer and Business Affairs has advised:

Consumer and Business Services (CBS) is responsible for the administration of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 (RTA).

The RTA regulates residential tenancy databases, often referred to as tenant blacklists. Sections 99J and 99K of the RTA limit how database operators can store and distribute the personal information of renters.

The national privacy principles, as stated in schedule 3 of the Privacy Act 1988 of the commonwealth, also limit how organisations store, use, and disclose personal data. These principles can apply to how database operators and other organisations treat the personal data of renters.

The Malinauskas government has committed to a review of the RTA. The review will consider restricting the amount of personal information that can be requested from prospective tenants applying for a rental property and will consider regulating the circumstances in which this data can be retained.


Question: Rent Discrimination of Low Income Earners

28 September 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of rental stress.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the Anti-Poverty Network released the results of their survey of low income renters in South Australia. The results showed that 64 per cent of low income renters felt that they were discriminated against when applying for rentals, mostly due to being a recipient of Centrelink payments. The Anti-Poverty Network has called for strengthening basic standards and protections for tenants in South Australia.

My questions to the Attorney-General are:

1. Is the Attorney-General concerned that people on low incomes feel they are being discriminated against when trying to secure rental accommodation in South Australia?

2. What action is the government taking to remedy this?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his question. It has come up a number of times, and the honourable member has certainly been a very solid advocate for ensuring rental affordability in South Australia across a range of areas. In terms of discrimination experienced by people in a rental setting, that is one of the significant areas.

I think the report that was tabled yesterday from the equal opportunity commissioner found that accommodation is a significant area of work the equal opportunities commissioner is involved with in the areas of discrimination she looks after. Certainly, there are other areas that the honourable member advocates for and would be aware of where people experience discrimination that are not covered by the Equal Opportunity Act. It is of concern when people are discriminated against in a whole range of areas.

I might talk to the honourable member regarding whether he has suggestions about how we can make improvements, maybe not necessarily through legislative changes but through policy or through other ways where we might be able to improve the experience of people seeking rental accommodation.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: the minister referenced the commissioner's report. Is the minister able to advise what remedies are currently available in terms of action that people can take if they are facing discrimination in the rental market? If he is not able to provide the answer today will he undertake to do so on notice?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his question. The primary focus of action taken by the equal opportunities commissioner is conciliation. I don't have the statistics in front of me, but a large percentage of complaints are resolved through the consultation process. I am happy to go away and find out the percentages and other remedies available.

 

 

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (Reply given 1/11/22)

 

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I have been advised:

If a tenant or prospective tenant considers that they have been discriminated against on the basis of any one or more of the grounds set out in the Equal Opportunity Act 1983, they can lodge a complaint with the Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity who will assess and, where applicable, conduct a conciliation process.

For discrimination on grounds outside of the Equal Opportunity Act, there are advocacy services such as RentRight, which is free and independent, and provide support when applying for a lease, and can assist prospective tenants with accessing legal and other services as required.


Motion: Residential Tenancies Act Review

7 September 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that the state government is undertaking a review of the Residential Tenancies Act.

2. Recognises that the voices of renters should be included in all deliberations.

3. Calls on the Malinauskas government to:

(a) end no-cause evictions;

(b) introduce rent capping to protect vulnerable people from unfair rent hikes;

(c) give renters security and stability through long-term tenancies;

(d) prohibit 'no pets' clauses in leases;

(e) end rent bidding that forces unfair rent increases; and

(f) ensure all homes meet energy efficiency and ventilation standards.

The motion I am moving today recognises that the state government is undertaking a review of the Residential Tenancies Act, notes that the voice of renters should be included in the government's deliberations and calls on the government to address some of the serious issues with the Residential Tenancies Act in South Australia.

The Greens, for some time, have been calling on this Labor government and, indeed, the previous Liberal government, to bring South Australia into line with other jurisdictions across our country by:

ending no-cause evictions;

introducing rent capping to protect vulnerable people;

providing security and stability for renters through providing for longer term tenancies;

prohibiting 'no pets' clauses in leases, which we know force many people into homelessness and also force pets out onto the street;

ending rent bidding, which forces unfair increases; and

ensuring that homes meet energy efficiency and ventilation standards.

I want to commend the Malinauskas government for undertaking a review of the Residential Tenancies Act. It is well overdue. Last month, I was given the opportunity to observe a round table convened by the minister and the consumer commissioner, Dini Soulio, to look at the Residential Tenancies Act, and that included a range of stakeholders.

I was concerned, however, that the Anti-Poverty Network was not included in those discussions because we know that what happens in the rental market has a huge impact on poverty and that people who are forced out of residential tenancies are often plunged into homelessness, particularly in the middle of this rental crisis. It was an oversight of the government to not include the Anti-Poverty Network in those deliberations, and the Greens are very keen to ensure that the voice of renters is front and centre of this review. I urge the government to ensure that they are talking to those who are directly impacted by the Residential Tenancies Act.

We know that for far too long this act has been skewed in favour of landlords. That is the way our system works. One of the big problems we face in South Australia are no-cause evictions, which allows a landlord, at the end of a fixed-lease tenancy, a 12-month tenancy, to say, 'Well, that's it; you're out.' We know that what that means is that a number of tenants are reluctant to come forward with legitimate issues concerning their tenancy.

I have had many constituents contact me, not only as a member of this place but also in my former life as an Adelaide City councillor, a number of tenants contacting me talking about issues that they have had in getting their landlord to make basic changes to the property or to undertake basic maintenance. Many of these tenants are in fear of taking a landlord through to the tribunal because they are worried that they are going to earn a reputation as a bad tenant, that they are not going to have their lease renewed and that they are going to find themselves homeless. This is a situation that is exacerbated by the record low vacancy rate we have in South Australia.

I welcome the review, but it is integral that the government consults with renters, the people who are directly affected, and it is integral that they take the action that is needed to fix our Residential Tenancies Act so that South Australians do not find themselves in a situation where they have less protections than their counterparts in other states.

 


Bill to Ban Gas Connections to New Homes Introduced

7 September 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:21): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Gas Act 1997. Read a first time.

Second Reading

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:22): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill seeks to ban all new gas connections for new builds from 2025. We are taking this step because we are in the midst of a climate emergency in South Australia. The South Australian parliament has passed a climate emergency declaration and it is time for us to take action to transition away from dirty fossil fuels. Unless we keep global warming to below 1.5º, the IPCC claims that South Australia will see more hot days, declining rainfall, more drought and more dangerous fire conditions.

To meet climate targets we must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and that includes natural gas. Gas is a non-renewable resource and we need to start transitioning to sources of energy that are not going to run out over time. Some argue that gas produces less emissions than coal and should be used as a transition fuel source, and it is true that gas is less emitting than coal, but if we power our electricity grid with renewables rather than coal, electricity is a far cleaner option. The Grattan Institute states:

The transition fuel argument should not distract from the fact that Australia, and the rest of the world, must consume less gas over time to reduce the effects of climate change.

Fifty-six per cent of South Australian homes are connected to gas. As a non-renewable resource, gas is going to increase in price as supply reduces. The Grattan Institute report indicated that gas prices will climb in the coming year, putting extra pressure on families who are locked into gas connections in their home.

Renewable energy is now seen as substantially cheaper to produce than natural gas, with prices continuing to fall; therefore, our best solution for household energy needs is to transition to solar and wind to reduce emissions rather than relying on gas and non-renewable fossil fuel. This bill starts the process by banning future connections from January 2025.

I understand that only 7 per cent of South Australians use gas for cooking, but many cooks and chefs have now publicly stated that they are turning to induction cooking, given it is superior in terms of precision and speed. I will have to take their word on that. I am not renowned for my cooking skills, but I have heard that the induction cooktop is a lot better.

I commend the Malinauskas government's commitment to green hydrogen as an alternative fuel source, but the reality is we are not yet in a position where we can pump green hydrogen through the existing gas network, so what we really need to be doing is banning gas connections for new builds. I do not intend to provide much further detail on this bill at this point because you will be hearing a bit from me over the next little while. With that, I conclude my remarks.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.


Question: Renting in the Regions and Cost of Living Concessions

7 July 2022

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of renting in the regions and the Cost of Living Concession.


Leave granted.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: This morning, Premier Malinauskas and Minister Cook held a press conference announcing the state government's commitment to bring forward the Cost of Living Concession payments to August this year. Previously, some recipients were due to receive their payment in March 2023. In August, home owner-occupiers who are eligible to receive the Cost of Living Concession will receive $449 to assist with their cost-of-living expenses while eligible renters will receive just half of that, $224.60.


We know that more South Australians than ever before are experiencing rental stress. This is particularly acute in regional areas, where prices have surged by almost 70 per cent over the last two years. My question to the minister is: is the minister concerned that renters in regional areas are being short-changed by the Cost of Living Concession, and will she be advocating for renters to receive the same payment as home owners as part of the government's review of these concessions?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question. I was also delighted to be able to hear the announcement today that effectively the Cost of Living Concession will be doubled as we go forward in this period of time. Certainly, I think there is an important need to be constantly looking at the concessions that we have in our state. They are a very important part of supporting those who need that assistance at various times throughout their lives. I will be happy to refer the substance of his question to the Minister for Human Services in the other place.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: will the minister be advocating for renters in the regions to get the same concession as home owners, given the crisis gripping regional South Australia?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I am constantly in discussions with the Minister for Human Services, as are most members, I am sure, on this side of the chamber, about how we can best address the cost-of-living concerns and issues being faced by people across our state.


Question: More affordable to rent in Melbourne than in Adelaide

6 July 2022

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the minister representing the Minister for Human Services on the topic of rental affordability.


Leave granted.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: This morning, multiple news outlets reported on the latest data from CoreLogic that showed that it is now more affordable to rent in Melbourne than it is in Adelaide. Over the last quarter, the price of renting an Adelaide unit has increased by 3.9 per cent while renting a house has increased by 4.4 per cent, and a typical Adelaide rental now costs $492 per week. Furthermore, the report shows that Adelaide rentals have increased by 10 per cent since this time last year.


Looking back over the last 10 years, Adelaide house rentals have increased by 36.5 per cent. Coupled with a vacancy rate of 0.3 per cent, Adelaide renters are struggling to find a house that they can afford. My question to the minister therefore is: is the minister disturbed by the CoreLogic report, and what action has the Malinauskas government taken to address rental affordability in our state?


The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his question. I will make sure it is referred to a minister in another place and, through the minister who represents the minister in another place in this place, have a reply brought back for the member in this place.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary.


The PRESIDENT: I will certainly listen to it but, the Hon. Mr Simms, good luck.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Given the crisis that South Australians are facing, when exactly can I expect a reply to these questions? I have asked numerous questions on this, and I am still waiting for an answer. We have people sleeping in tents and in their cars.


The PRESIDENT: It is with serious intent that you ask your supplementary. I invite the minister to provide an answer.


The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member, and I will make sure his desire for a speedy reply is well known.

 

 

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (6 September 2022)

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): The Minister for Human Services has advised:

The state Labor government is taking action by investing $177.5 million of extra funding into public housing that will build 400 new homes, upgrade 350 vacant properties so they can be homes again for people in need and undertake maintenance on 3,000 more. We are also working with federal Labor on its $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund that will deliver 30,000 social and affordable homes nationwide.

The state government has also announced a review of the Residential Tenancies Act and ordered a review of the Supported Residential Facilities Act. The government is also in the late stages of negotiations with owners of vacant facilities that can provide emergency accommodation. The outcomes of all these processes are expected to improve our rental market and help people facing homelessness.


Tackling the Rental Crisis in SA

6 July 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS:


I rise to speak on the Residential Tenancies (Rent Control) Amendment Bill. This bill seeks to limit rent in line with CPI to protect renters from unreasonable rent hikes. For far too long, high rental prices have put pressure on our most vulnerable South Australians, and it is time for us as a parliament to step in. As we know, the cost of living across our state, and indeed our nation, is skyrocketing. People are struggling with increased fuel costs, increased grocery costs and high housing costs.


Nearly 30 per cent of South Australians rent their home. According to a SACOSS report, data shows that, on average, renter households had lower incomes than homeowner households and spent proportionately more of their income on housing. Furthermore, that report showed that 39,556 renters in December 2021 were experiencing housing stress. With rising costs across the board, too many people are struggling to pay the rent and make ends meet.


According to the SA Housing Authority, the cost of renting has increased by 20 per cent over the last two years, far outstripping the rate of CPI, which currently sits at 5.1 per cent. In some locations, such as Murray Bridge, we have seen an increase in rent prices of almost 70 per cent—70 per cent. This is simply unsustainable and untenable.


Just this morning it was reported in multiple news outlets that Adelaide has overtaken Melbourne in average rental rates, with Adelaide seeing a 4.3 per cent increase in rates over the last quarter. On average, rent has increased from $350 per week to $490 per week over the last two years. So it is now cheaper to live in Melbourne than it is to live in Adelaide. Something must be done.


Data from CoreLogic has shown that rental rates are rising at a faster rate than housing values. The rapid increase of rent added to existing cost-of-living pressures is forcing people into poverty and homelessness. My office regularly hears stories about the increase of rent and the impact that this is having. The Anti-Poverty Network, which does really important work in this space, has shared stories from tenants who have been adversely impacted by rent increases, and I want to share some of those with you, for the benefit of Hansard. One has said:


Our rent went up a few months back to $250 from $190. We can't afford anywhere else and given we are two pensioners, we would never be accepted for another property. I know because we've been trying to move since before the pandemic.


Another says:


My rent just increased by $500 a month yesterday. Fortunately, it was from a low baseline and I do have a part time job, but it's still a lot of money. It's going to be rough for many of us.


Another says:


Mine is just about to go up...from $360 a week to now $500 a week for a very standard, nothing special, small three bedroom home. The stress is absolutely overwhelming…


Another:


My entire JobSeeker Payment is spent on my rent. This is the cheapest rent anywhere I could find.


Another says:


Even having a job where I work 20-30 hours per week, which is the most I can manage with my disability, I struggle to cover all expenses.


And here is a story from one renter:


I've moved house about 2 months ago to a new rental. This rental had an asking price of $410 per fortnight. We offered $420 after months of rejections without even having our application opened taught us that we have to play the price fixing game. Agent calls a few days later stating that another applicant had offered $450 and asking if we would match it. What option did we have? Stay at my parents' house for another 3 months waiting for a golden goose? What was wrong with the other applicant? Did they ever exist? So here we are paying $40 above asking price for a rental with rats living in the walls due to a huge hole in the exterior wall. Raised this with the agent and was told to buy bait.


The story is dire for people who are trying to live on the minimum wage. Anglicare's Rental Affordability Snapshot of 2022 highlighted that a single person working full time on the minimum wage could afford only two rentals in greater Adelaide or no properties in regional and rural South Australia. Nothing at all was affordable in regional South Australia. Compare this with ten years ago. In 2012, 30 per cent of properties were affordable to people on the minimum wage.


People living with a disability or on the aged pension are being left behind. As we know, the National Rental Affordability Scheme, which gave private owners and community housing organisations a subsidy to provide affordable housing, is being wound up in 2026. This is outrageous. There are fears that those owners and organisations will simply increase rents back up to the market value when the scheme ends. We are already seeing right now that the market is simply not addressing the housing crisis. We need to do something. We need to find alternative measures.


Rent control has been used to protect renters in jurisdictions right around the world but also in Australia. It really is not that radical a concept. During the Great Depression, rent control was used by the Menzies government to ease pressure on families and to keep a roof over their head. Menzies was hardly considered a Marxist, but he embraced rent control as a need to respond to this crisis. It was then continued by the states, with rent control used in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.


In Victoria, rent control continued alongside public housing until the mid-1950s when policy decisions were made to instead favour home ownership. The COVID-19 pandemic is reminiscent of the postwar world. It has been the biggest global shift since the Second World War, and it has resulted in similar difficulties—people being forced into homelessness, rising costs of living and people struggling to stay afloat.


This bill limits rent increases to stay in line with inflation—the CPI. Currently in South Australia, landlords can increase their rent once every twelve months without any legislated control. That has created an uneven balance of power between landlords and tenants. This bill seeks to restore the balance. It ensures there is protection for renters. By increasing rent only in line with CPI once every 24 months, renters can be sure that they will not be pushed into housing stress through an unexpected price hike.


Ireland uses general rent control to match general inflation. Introduced back in 2017, it was used as a lever to stabilise rent in areas that were identified as being under housing pressure. In that jurisdiction, rent increases are now moderate in designated rent pressure zones. New York implemented rent control in 1994. While this has been successful in terms of regulating rent, there were some flaws with their particular rent control program and my bill addresses some of those.


The bill addresses some of those shortfalls in terms of looking at what has happened overseas in places like New York and Ireland. Ensuring that rent control is in place regardless of the tenant or the landlord means that landlords are unable to use such a mechanism as an excuse to raise the rent or to evict tenants. In the ACT and in Victoria, limits have been put on the ability to increase rents. In those places, they are also banning no-cause evictions. These are reforms that the Greens have been advocating for for some time and that we hope to see in South Australia.


We have heard from landlords that they want to be able to increase the rent when improvements are made to the property. This bill ensures that they can do just that. They can increase the rent beyond CPI if the amenity or standard of the property is improved or if they are offering additional services, facilities or goods. It also allows the landlord to apply to the tribunal to increase the rent beyond CPI in certain circumstances.


Housing is a fundamental human right. It should be the right of each and every South Australian to have a roof over their head and a place to call home. We need to think of rental properties not as commodities but as homes for our citizens. Having a secure roof over your head is one of our most basic needs. As members of parliament, it is our duty to ensure that people's housing needs are met. The Greens believe that tenants in private rental, public and community housing must be supported by legislative safeguards, and this bill would ensure that renters are not forced into homelessness or housing stress as a result of soaring rental prices.


As stated by Liam Davies of the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT, regulating rents would have a lasting positive impact on Australia. It certainly would here in South Australia. In considering this bill, I would urge members of this place to consider the plight of the people we seek to represent, those South Australians who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves during this housing crisis forced out onto the street. We see them when we spend time in our city, people literally living on the street in the middle of this cold winter, people who are forced to live in their cars, people who are being forced to live in tents, people who are being forced to live for prolonged periods in caravan parks.


Surely we can do better than that in a country like Australia? Surely we can do better than that in a state like South Australia? If members of parliament are not supportive of this bill, then I ask them to consider what they are going to do to help these people who desperately need our help, because we cannot simply say, 'Let the market decide.' We have seen what happens. This has not happened by accident.


We have seen both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party fail to do anything to deal with social housing over the last 10, 20, 30 years. As a result, the chickens have come home to roost and we are seeing the impacts being felt by vulnerable South Australians. I urge members of this parliament to act, to step up and to do something to help these desperate people, because we cannot continue to do nothing. We cannot continue collectively to sit on our hands whilst so many South Australians are in trouble. We have to help them.


Question: Housing Vacancy Rates

5 July 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the minister representing the Minister for Human Services on the topic of vacant properties.


Leave granted.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The latest census data shows that 83,821 privately owned units, apartments and houses were unoccupied in August last year. While these properties sit vacant, over 17,000 South Australians are on the waiting list for social housing and 3,000 of those are listed as category 1. If only a quarter of these currently vacant houses were released into the housing market, either as rentals or for sale, it would add 20,000 homes to the supply.


The government has committed to building just 400 new social homes, but it will take time for them to be built. My question to the minister therefore is: given the immediacy of the housing crisis gripping the state and the huge number of currently vacant properties, what does the government plan to do to entice private property owners to release these properties back into the housing market?


The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his very important question. I will refer that to the relevant minister in another place and bring back a reply.

 

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (5 July 2022).

 

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): The Minister for Human Services has advised:

The state Labor government is taking action by investing $177.5 million of extra funding into public housing that will build 400 new homes, upgrade 350 vacant properties so they can be homes again for people in need and undertake maintenance on 3,000 more. We are also working with federal Labor on its $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund that will deliver 30,000 social and affordable homes nation-wide.

With regard to vacant private dwellings reported in the Census, the raw number dropped by around 8,500 between 2016 and 2021 and the percentage also dropped from 12.6 per cent to 10.8 per cent. The vacancy rate is much higher in regional areas—around 20 per cent compared to 7 per cent in Greater Adelaide. Many of the regional homes are in holiday locations – like Robe that had almost 60 per cent vacant dwellings on Census night—without easy access to services, employment and transport.