Max Chandler-Mathers says Labor ‘doesn’t care’ about renters, wants action

The Greens have walked back from some of their demands on housing, offering to pass Labor’s future fund bill in exchange for $2.5 billion in annual direct spending, and immediate action on soaring rents.

In accusing the government of “not looking after” one third of Australians, the party say they are willing to pass the government’s $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund if the government commits to a national rent freeze and eventual caps on price increases.

The party’s housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mathers said the federal government would need to cough up $1 billion for the states and territories a year to support them during two years of freezes, with a cap to be implemented afterwards.

The Greens say that funding could be spent on both purchasing rental homes exiting the NRAS scheme or otherwise vacant unused housing for public housing.

Mr Chandler-Mathers said the Albanese government was doing little to look after the millions of Australians who were teetering on the edge of rental stress, which risked further exacerbating the housing crisis.

“Why is it that one third of this country don’t get the sort of political representation – renters – where a lot of other people in the country do?” he asked.

Earlier this week, Reserve Bank governor Phil Lowe said if price controls was the solution to inflation, “we’ll distort the supply side of the economy”.

“We might get inflation down for a bit, but we’ll all end up being poorer,” he told estimates.

Mr Chandler-Mathers said there was “a wealth of evidence” to suggest otherwise.

He said New Jersey in the US had introduced rent caps, and research had found “no material impact” on the supply of private housing, but that there was an impact on reducing rents.

“The reason we’re proposing this is because there are now millions of renters who are falling into renter stress. That means a lot of them are one rent increase away from eviction onto the streets,” he told ABC’s Insiders.

“There’s two ways to solve the housing crisis. We need public housing, but we need the queues for social and affordable housing to reduce as well. every person evicted out of a private home is another person who joins the 10-year-long waitlist for social housing.”

Mr Chandler-Mathers said the federal government had implemented a national rent freeze during the Covid-19 pandemic, and could do so again because Australia was in the midst of another “crisis”.

“The housing crisis is a lot worse (now) than it was during the pandemic,” he said.

Mr Chandler-Mathers said the government had proved it was capable of co-ordinating a national response, because it had done so when it took action on energy prices.

“What we’re proposing has been used for Australia before – freezes on rent increases. It’s been used around the world – Spain just introduced caps on rent increases, because they’re looking after the renters, unlike the government right now.”

Pressed on whether the party would really side with the Coalition and block the fund if the government didn’t come to the table, Mr Chandler-Mathers would not buy into the adage of “something is better than nothing”.

“I don’t think I could look the people in the eye that I’ve spoken to over the last few months the people one rent increase away from eviction, the people on a 10-year waitlist for social housing and know that under the government’s plan the waitlist for social housing will get bigger,” he said.

“So, really, what they’re saying is – the crisis is going to get worse under their plan. That is not a response to the housing crisis.”

Housing Minister Julie Collins was contacted for comment.

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