Adjournment: Rental supports
My adjournment matter this afternoon is for the minister representing the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, and I ask that the minister immediately reintroduce the moratorium on evictions and rent increases to protect renters from losing their homes. Victorians have done it tough over the last 18 months, and those of us who rent our homes have been hit especially hard by the continuing pandemic. Last year the government acknowledged that renters needed additional support and, like many other states and countries around the world, established an evictions moratorium and a ban on rent increases and created a system to help renters negotiate rent reductions with their landlords. When these protections expired in March, the government argued that the worst of the pandemic was over and that the separate changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 were sufficient protection for renters still experiencing hardship. But that is just not true. Renters are still getting evicted for non-payment of rent in the middle of a pandemic, and now Victoria is once again back in the middle of severe restrictions, attempting to keep the COVID numbers under control while we get vaccination rates up.
Workers in the industries most impacted by restrictions are overwhelmingly casual workers and also overwhelmingly renters. They are once again struggling with reduced or zero income, but they have been effectively ignored by the government. Even when the government reintroduced the commercial tenancies relief scheme for small businesses, renters were again left out. On Monday the government finally announced their version of a support package for renters, but what they presented was a shaved down, stricter version of the protections that were in place last year—one-off rental grants of $1500, less than the $3000 offered in 2020, and stricter rules on income and savings thresholds, meaning many renters are immediately excluded from the grant scheme. And when median rents are just under $400 a week, a one-off payment of $1500 will barely cover one month’s rent, let alone the next few months. The scheme also requires a proof of rent reduction agreements, which means that the government is expecting renters to go and ask their landlords or property managers for a rent reduction without putting anything in place to help them do this. When there is already a significant power imbalance between the two and when we have heard time and time again over the last 18 months that landlords and property managers are all too willing to push the limits of the rules or break them altogether, it is easy to see that this is a disaster waiting to happen.
Victoria is the only state currently in lockdown without an eviction moratorium. Even South Australia, which has been lucky enough to remain relatively COVID free and out of lockdown for much of the pandemic, has just extended its moratorium until the end of the year. They acknowledge what the Victorian government has failed to: that the continuing effects of the pandemic mean ongoing government support is needed to keep people safe. If this government continues pandering to the real estate industry instead of helping the many people who rent in Victoria, it will be responsible for a wave of evictions and an increase in the number of Victorians without a permanent place to call home. I ask the government to urgently reintroduce the moratorium on evictions and the ban on rent increases.