Wednesday, 17 May 2023


Legal and Social Issues Committee



Legal and Social Issues Committee


Aiv PUGLIELLI (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (10:17): I move, on behalf of the Greens:

That this house requires the Legal and Social Issues Committee to inquire into, consider and report, by 17 November 2023, on the rental crisis in Victoria and measures to make renting more affordable and secure for Victorians, including but not limited to:

(1) the drivers of low rental supply in Victoria;

(2) the impact of low supply on renters;

(3) options to increase the supply of long-term rentals, including:

(a) regulating the short-stay industry;

(b) incentivising long-term rentals through state tax levers;

(c) the role of build to rent and rent to buy in increasing housing supply;

(4) the factors impacting the high cost of rent in Victoria, including:

(a) state and local government legislation and regulations;

(b) state government taxation;

(5) the impact of increasing first home buyers on rental stock;

(6) the effect on renters of rental stress;

(7) the options to make renting affordable to households of all income levels, including:

(a) rent control options;

(b) rent assistance options;

(c) strengthening rental bidding laws;

(d) land trusts and community-owned housing;

(8) the effectiveness and enforcement of existing rental standards;

(9) how to improve standards for tenants including:

(a) energy efficiency standards and disclosure;

(b) cooling standards;

(c) privacy standards when applying for a rental;

(10) the adequacy of tenancy support and mediation in Victoria;

(11) the impact on tenants of the current legislative and administrative framework in terms of security of tenure;

(12) options for legislating longer and perpetual leases;

(13) further protections for tenants against notices to vacate during and after the termination of a lease;

(14) the efficacy of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in, and alternative models for, tenancy dispute resolution;

(15) the effect of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 amendments on head tenants in share houses; and

(16) any other related matters.

I take a moment to acknowledge the many renters that have joined us in the chamber today – people who know firsthand the impact that the current rental crisis is having on us here in Victoria and people who live with that every day. I think their presence here today puts us all on notice that we need to work collaboratively as a chamber to act on this issue. The rental crisis is here. It is happening now. People are being pushed to the edge, and we as a Parliament need to take action to alleviate the pressure that it is putting on everyday Victorians with ever rising rents, substandard homes, lack of availability and many other issues.

That is why the Greens have brought this motion and this inquiry to this chamber. Renting is cooked at the moment. As a renter myself, I am well aware of the many problems that people are facing, and as a member of the Legal and Social Issues Committee, I really welcome the opportunity to hear from renters across our state. It is so important that their stories are told, and I will be sharing some of them with you today in my contribution.

We are in the midst of the worst rental crisis since World War II, and it is time for us to take action. There are tens of thousands of people right across Victoria who are just one rent increase away from eviction, and there is nothing to stop that from happening. It is not enough to simply acknowledge the problem and then move on. We must make a concerted effort to investigate the causes of this crisis and to develop solutions that will help those who are struggling to find safe, secure and affordable housing. That is why the Victorian Greens are calling for this inquiry into the rental crisis in Victoria. We need to hear from renters and from experts and to review the data to develop a comprehensive understanding of issues, such as the drivers of low rental supply, high rental costs and the impact that rental stress has on renters. Crucially, we need to pull that together and consider policy and funding solutions.

We know that this crisis is affecting Victorians from all walks of life. One in three Victorians rent. It is critical that we commit to change in Victoria, because the most vulnerable among the renting cohort‍ – people on the brink of homelessness – simply cannot afford to wait any longer. Even for those who are a few rent rises away from eviction, each rent increase still means a tightening of the purse strings: ‘Kids sport is cancelled for the season. Let’s try and get by without filling out the medical scripts this week. No treats at the shop. We’ll fill up the car later, and we’ll just stay home this weekend.’ The rental crisis is literally spiralling new people down into poverty. When we see employed people facing poverty because of the rental crisis, it is such a stark indicator that the system is broken and we need to fix it.

Rents have already gone up by around 20 per cent and are forecast to continue to rise. The situation is really dire, and it should not be like this. It does not have to be like this. We have the power, collectively here in this chamber, to improve things for Victorian renters. This inquiry will examine the solutions that ensure that there are enough rentals for those who need them across Victoria. We have all heard of the massive queues for rental inspections. As a renter – one of the few in this Parliament – I have experienced them firsthand. Each time I found a rental that was suitable, it was snapped up within hours or days, often for above the advertised price. There are many renters who have already reached out to me and my colleagues. John from Brooklyn has found renting very hard for the last five years or so. He has had to move further away from the city in order to find affordable housing. Each rent increase makes saving harder.

We need to take action to ensure that people’s homes are safe, secure and livable. We are facing more extreme weather, and it is not acceptable to expect renters to live in substandard homes without cooling and reasonable energy efficiency standards. People call our offices in the summer with stories of landlords who are refusing to install air conditioning in hotbox apartments and houses. Renters are on average paying more for their energy bills than home owners. We have all heard the horror stories of freezing or boiling homes without proper heating or cooling, of people running electric fan heaters to try to stay warm or of those who spend their days in libraries and shopping malls so as to not overheat in their homes. Mouldy bathrooms, cracked windows, holes in walls – the list goes on, and for every one of these stories of unlivable rental conditions, there is another story of landlords and agents who are making it difficult for renters who are asking the bare minimum for their home living standards. It is not good enough.

Adrian, a renter from Heathmont in my own region of North-Eastern Metro, spent last winter with broken ducted heating, with only an electric fan heater for warmth. It took months for the heating system to be repaired. Harley from Pascoe Vale, a survivor of family violence, has been living in a house where the heater has been broken for six months with windows and a back door that will not close. The landlord changed real estate agents after the property manager told the landlord that the house needed to be fixed. After raising the issue with the new real estate agency, Harley was told that the landlord would not be renewing their lease. Not being able to properly close windows and doors is putting Harley’s safety at risk.

We need strong mechanisms in place to address the power imbalance between landlords and tenants and ensure that there is actual compliance with rental standards. We need adequately funded support and advocacy for renters – services such as Tenants Victoria. These organisations provide vital support and advice for renters who are facing eviction, discrimination or other issues related to their tenancy. They are currently underfunded and struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for their services.

Another story: Scott from Karingal is too scared to report things out of fear of being evicted and then being unable to find a new home. He feels that there is no way of holding landlords to account and that if he does not play nice, they will find a way to kick him out. Wahaj from Moonee Ponds has been getting nowhere with their property manager and has been living with a broken toilet, leaks in the kitchen and no working smoke alarms. Wahaj cannot afford to move out, let alone find another property, as everything is so expensive – we know that here. This inquiry will consider the need for an overhaul of our current tenancy dispute resolution model. Vulnerable Victorians cannot afford to have their bond sitting in limbo for years while waiting for a VCAT case to be heard, and they should not have to take minor and reasonable requests to the tribunal just to get action.

The current reality is exorbitant and unaffordable rent prices, leaving people in a state of perpetual rent stress. Properties are being snapped up within hours of being listed, leaving many with nowhere to live. People working full-time are living in youth hostels because they cannot get a break applying for rentals. Melbourne rental vacancy rates have reached record lows of 0.8 per cent. Rent prices have skyrocketed, with many renters spending more than 30 per cent of their pay on rent – the definition of ‘unaffordable housing’. Regional Victoria has reached a historic low in rental affordability. Rents have been climbing at double-digit rates, and if nothing changes, rent prices are set to keep rising.

Victorian uni students are pitching tents in lounge rooms, sleeping in shifts in overcrowded share homes and having to ask their teachers for a place to live. This issue is acutely worse for international students who do not have local rental histories or are dealing with racial discrimination. Shruti from Glen Huntly, a uni student, has been completely unable to find an affordable house. Shruti, like so many other uni students, earns a minimum wage and is feeling the pressure building week to week.

In addition, the impact of short stays and Airbnbs has further exacerbated the problem, with properties left vacant for the majority of the year. A married couple in Bairnsdale were given notice to vacate as their landlord wanted to sell. As they get older, each move gets that much harder. While they have likely found another property to rent, they are anxious they have only been offered a 12-month lease. They wanted to remain anonymous today as they were concerned publicly coming forward could mean losing their home and becoming homeless.

The poor enforcement and regulation in the rental market has created instability for renters, who live in constant fear of being kicked out. As well as enforcement and strong regulations, there should be options for longer leases. More than one-third of Victorians do not own their own home, so long-term renting is the reality for many. But our policy frameworks continue to consider renting as a ‘just for a short time’ option before you buy a home. People should be able to make their rentals their homes, to settle in an area and build a community without the fear and stress of constantly moving.

Andeli from Diamond Creek – again, from my region – receives the disability support pension and feels there is no hope of finding somewhere affordable that also meets their bare minimum accessibility and safety needs. Andeli is currently having to decide which of their needs they are most willing to neglect. When people struggle to find stable housing, it creates a ripple effect. Many people are forgoing essential expenses like medication, doctors visits and food to pay their rent.

People on minimum wage and welfare are being priced out of the rental market, while public housing waitlists grow. People are being evicted from their homes and forced into homelessness because they cannot afford the 20 per cent or more rent increases. More renters are facing homelessness because of a broken system. It puts more strain on social services and public health. Addressing the rental crisis is crucial not just for renters but for the health and wellbeing of the entire Victorian community. The current complacency and inaction from the government simply will not do. That is why the Greens have introduced this motion today. As a Parliament we have a responsibility to address collectively the rental crisis here in Victoria. While the government did introduce some measures to support renters during the pandemic, such as the eviction moratorium and rent relief grants, these measures were temporary. However, they show what is possible, and as economist Eliza Owen recently suggested, rent caps are ‘viable’ as a short-term solution.

A rental inquiry is a vital step towards understanding the problems faced by renters, identifying contributing factors and systemic shortcomings. This inquiry will ensure that the voices of renters are put squarely in front of decision-makers. We need to take action now to prevent more households from being pushed into financial stress or homelessness. I urge everyone in this chamber to look at the evidence, the flow-on effects for the wider community and the stories of vulnerable Victorians, renters like those here today, who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. We cannot sit idly by while people like Shruti, Harley, Adrian, Scott, Wahaj, John and Andeli, who I mentioned earlier, struggle to find safe, affordable accommodation. I hope this motion will receive support from all sides of Parliament so that we can create a fairer and more just society with housing options for all income levels and safeguards to protect Victorian renters.

Ryan BATCHELOR (Southern Metropolitan) (10:32): I am pleased to rise to speak in relation to the motion before us today. Housing policy is one of the most – if not the most – critical issues that we need to address here in Victoria and here in Australia, because fundamentally people have a right to somewhere to live that is safe, that is high quality and that provides them with all the protections that they need to live and engage in study, work or family life. I do believe, however, that just examining one part of the problem is not going to lead us to a comprehensive solution to these issues and that, as well as looking at rentals, we need to be thinking about how we make the rest of the home ownership market more affordable for people seeking to get out of renting and get into home ownership and we also need to be addressing issues around the lack of, and the need to build more, social, community and public housing. So I think it is the entirety of the housing debate that is really critical to addressing many of the issues that have been raised both in the motion today and also in the context of this debate.

I do want to make a couple of comments just going through a process before we get to, I think, the more substantive question about the policy substance that we want to be addressing with these issues. It is, I think, a little bit regrettable that at the moment we see that, for our colleagues in the Greens, the Liberals appear to be their policy partner of choice when it comes to housing in Australia. We see what they are doing in Canberra in teaming up with the federal Liberal Party to stop the federal Labor government’s plans to invest in an enduring endowment for social and affordable housing here in Australia, by blocking the Housing Australia Future Fund, and we are also seeing it play out on the floor of the Parliament here today. But I suspect that is because they have got to dance with the ones that brung them, and their track record of preferring the Liberals and preferring their preferences to further their own purposes is pretty clear.

But to get to the policy substance of the issues that we are here today to talk about, I want to do it in two parts. I want to firstly talk about what we need to be doing to deal with housing supply and both the supply of affordable housing and the supply of affordable rental properties. Then I want to spend a bit of time talking about what we have got to do to make sure that people in the rental market have the adequate protections that they need to stop the kinds of practices that have been referred to by the lead speaker for the Greens in today’s debate.

I made these remarks last sitting week in this Parliament, just as I have in the earlier sitting weeks of the Parliament this year: the most important thing we can do to improve the housing situation in Australia is build more housing, and particularly build more social, public and affordable housing. In my opinion that must be the absolute number one priority for those of us who think that we need to take action on the housing crisis here in Australia. We have seen from the state government an absolute record investment in building new social and affordable homes, the Big Housing Build – $5.3 billion being invested right now in building more homes. In my own region of Southern Metropolitan – and I have been round and visited I think nearly all of the developments that are underway at the moment ‍– we have got about half a dozen new social and affordable housing developments underway. Just last week I was in Ashburton at the Markham estate looking at the new homes that have been built there, both new social housing and new affordable rental properties that are at the moment in the process of being rented out to those who need somewhere to live.

What we are seeing is that on the supply side one of the most important things we can do is build more homes, and that is exactly what the government is doing – more social housing and more affordable rentals. And that affordable rental plan has been criticised by those on the crossbench. They think it is not good enough. They do not really like our affordable rental program. But I can say to the overwhelming number of applicants that we have had for our affordable rental program, who will be paying below market rent, with those who are on lower incomes getting access to long-term rentals: we think that this program is actually delivering exactly the kind of supply into the rental market that people who would not be eligible for social housing yet and are finding themselves squeezed out of the private rental market need, giving them a place where they can apply for below-market rents with long-term security. And most importantly, to address one of the issues that was raised, they are going into brand new 7-star energy efficient homes that are being built to modern accessibility standards. To me this is exactly the kind of supply we need to be bringing onto the market to address some of the issues that have been raised, because we do know that historically rental stock in Australia – and in Melbourne in particular – has largely been in low-end, older homes that are leaky, that are draughty and that are not energy efficient. What this government is doing is building rental homes that are the opposite – that are energy-efficient 7-star modern facilities – and providing them at below market rents to people on low incomes on long-term, secure tenure. That is exactly what we need to be doing. We need to be doing more of it, and that is exactly what this government is doing.

The second point I want to just briefly touch on is the question of protections, because those who do need to rent their homes, who are in the rental market, do deserve protections from unscrupulous practices. The previous speaker said things like rent caps are just short-term solutions. What we need are longer term protections and permanent protections that can fundamentally change some of that relationship between private renters, landlords and the real estate agents and property managers, who more often than not – and we hear this when we talk to people who are having issues with their property managers – do not give the best time to private renters. That is why the suite of 130 reforms that this government has made is making renting fairer – things like banning rental bidding, ensuring that rents are advertised at a fixed price, making sure that rents only can go up once every 12 months and ensuring that you cannot provide no reason to vacate notices so you can kick out your tenants just to try and go back to the market for no reason whatsoever other than trying to get more money for the property.

I think the other thing and the important thing that we have also done – so that was on the cost side – is taken action to make sure that those older rental properties that so many Victorians do call home are now subject to minimum rental standards. That is having things like windows that open and ensuring that energy efficiency is something that is taken into account and that as we head into winter our rentals here in Melbourne have proper heating so that the way that people, the tenants in these properties, experience their living arrangements is done so that they can experience some minimum standards. Do we have to do more to make sure that those standards are enforced? Absolutely. We always need to be vigilant about these things.

That accompanies the other suite of measures that the government has taken to ensure that tenants can do things to their own homes, like put up curtains, make modifications to the walls and, importantly, have their pets. There is absolutely always more work to do on this front. Just on that, I do want to close by saying that it is good that we have a Commonwealth government that has finally come to the party on housing and particularly on rentals. With the last Commonwealth budget, the largest increase to rent assistance that we have seen in 30 years is going to have a positive impact on private renters, and moving forward it is about changing the nature of the supply of rental properties here in Victoria ‍– the changes that are being made to encourage more build-to-rent schemes – so that more rental properties come onto the market and are being built with the purpose of being rented out in long-term ways, fit for purpose and energy efficient. It is fundamentally only by improving the supply of housing, by improving the supply of rental properties and by ensuring that the necessary protections are in place for renters across Victoria that we can make sure that we are looking after the very important renters that we have got right across our community.

Evan MULHOLLAND (Northern Metropolitan) (10:42): It is really great to speak on this motion. It is an issue – housing in general, renting – that is very close to my heart. I now own my own home, a pretty average three-bedroom in the outer north, but I was a renter for quite a while. I have been a renter in a shoebox apartment in Abbotsford and I have been a renter in Reservoir as well, so I know a lot of the difficulties people face. In particular I get a lot of correspondence from people in the north ‍– and Mr Puglielli had a lot of really good examples – particularly residents with big families, who really find it hard to crack into that rental market. An agent is much more likely to select the single male or the couple without kids than families for getting into homes. So that is something I hear over and over again. I hope that this is something that this inquiry might look into as well.

What has disappointed me I think is the government’s attitude towards this motion. This is a chamber that is elected by the people, and the make-up of the chamber unfortunately for the government is not completely up to them. What happens and is decided on in this place is a shared journey. It is important for all of us to come together to find an outcome to do that. That is what the Victorian people sent us here to do.

I see that Danny Pearson the Minister for Government Services was out in the media today saying that this is a ridiculous and childish prank, that this is just the worst student politics and that, ‘If you’re serious about this stuff, get off your arse and do something about it.’ He said that no-one would actually read the report. First of all, it is good to see the minister back out in the media. He has been in hiding recently. He seems to be more focused on his share portfolio than his actual portfolio. Secondly, if the ministers in this government want to sit up there in Treasury Place in their ivory tower and pretend that there is not a housing crisis, that is on them; that is a reflection on them.

Gayle Tierney: On a point of order, Acting President, I ask that you bring the member back to the motion before the house.

A member interjected.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Sonja Terpstra): Order! Mr Mulholland, I will uphold the minister’s point of order. If I could ask you to remain relevant to the motion but also just to be mindful of parliamentary language.

Evan MULHOLLAND: Thank you, Acting President. I was only quoting the minister, and it is completely relevant. The minister was speaking about this motion before the house, and the government’s response to that is absolutely relevant to what they are doing here.

Also, Mr Batchelor spoke about supporting different types of housing, and I am supportive of different types of housing. I am supportive of choice. He talked about the importance of build to rent, and I think that is really important as well, but I find it curious, because there is a proposal in my electorate in Darebin, where Assemble Communities, who are backed by industry super, had I think quite a brilliant proposal to build a 480-apartment development in Preston next to Bell station. They went through the process and went to Darebin council. They even set aside 20 per cent of houses for social housing for 15 years, with an additional 35 per cent affordable housing and 5 per cent as specialist disability accommodation, something that we should all be supportive of. But the council, which has a Labor mayor, has been road-blocking and slowing down this development on the basis that it is not enough of a development to have social housing, the council should be receiving more funds from developers to cover the cost and developers should pay more to upgrade additional infrastructure. This is a build to rent prioritised for frontline workers – for our nurses, for our coppers, even for our baristas; for frontline workers who could not otherwise afford the rent in other places – yet we have got a council with a Labor mayor opposing build to rent. This just highlights the supply crisis that we have got going on here. We also have a Labor deputy mayor in the City of Melbourne heritage-listing brutalist car parks, so it goes to what I was saying – that the Labor Party like to talk about this but their problem is they themselves and their members out in councils are slowing up the supply crisis.

I have been taking part in the stamp duty inquiry and quite enjoying it. I have been asking some questions of different expert witnesses, and one thing I would disagree with the Greens on is their proposal of a rent freeze. I want to make it clear that the Liberals and Nationals oppose that policy motion. While we are very open to looking into, in this inquiry, all sorts of different policy motions, this would be a disastrous policy. There was some very telling advice from the Urban Development Institute of Australia, Victoria, last week when they addressed the stamp duty inquiry. They explained, when I put to them what would happen as a result of a rental freeze, that such a policy would do nothing to drive affordability and nothing to drive new supply; all it would do is decrease the incentive to invest in new housing. It would reduce supply across the market. It would put more properties in the short-stay market. So the Greens’ solution to the rental crisis seems to be to reduce the number of houses and increase the number of Airbnbs.

I want to make it clear that we do support this motion. We want to look at the role of build to rent – and build to rent in increasing housing supply. We want to incentivise long-term rentals through state tax levers. We want to look at that, and we want to look at the impact of taxation – I think that is an important point to go to when we are looking at taxes. We are looking at taxes in the stamp duty inquiry as well, but we should also look at the impact that state taxes have on rentals. Victorians have been hit by a significant rise in the rate of land tax, which was brought in by the Andrews Labor government. Property is a common investment vehicle for Australians of all walks of life. It is by no means the preserve of the ultrarich. In fact it is not uncommon for Victorians to hold the vast majority of wealth in a single property investment.

I also think we need to take into account that people who rent out a property also are impacted by the same financial strains of, say, interest rate increases as everyone else. They are not in some sort of nirvana up in the sky that is not affected by and is immune to the strains on the economy for everyone else. So if you decide that a landlord has to have a set price for rent, that is going to have an impact on them. That is going to mean they will most likely have to sell or have to do other things. We have seen this disastrous policy of a rental freeze play out in New York, and we know from experts and economists that it basically creates a two-tiered housing crisis, where landlords literally have no –

Interjections from gallery.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Sonja Terpstra): Order in the gallery, please. Order!

Evan MULHOLLAND: thank you – incentive to invest in rental properties. I think it is quite important for landlords to invest in their own rental properties and to work in collaboration with tenants in order to uphold the basic standards of renting. I think that is really important.

Jacinta ERMACORA (Western Victoria) (10:52): I am pleased to speak on the motion brought by Mr Puglielli to discuss an important issue for all Victorians – younger and older, rural and urban. The Andrews Labor government understands the unique challenges that Victorian renters are facing in today’s rental market. The government has a history of making access to affordable housing fairer for all Victorians, which is why it is continuing to provide support that is making a difference. We have delivered 130 more reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to help strengthen renters rights, and together with investing $5.3 billion in the Big Housing Build to increase the availability of housing, the government is bringing about a once-in-a-generation investment to support renters and grow our housing supply. Together with the actions of the federal Labor government to increase rental assistance for the first time in 30 years, it cannot go unnoticed that Labor always have placed and always will place renters as a priority in aiming to secure stable housing for everyone.

While we support action for renters, it would have been better if the Greens had worked with the government on its extensive range of housing actions, rather than palling up with the Liberals to move this motion – which after all is a motion – whilst we on the government bench here are working hard to actually do something about this issue. And the Greens are even less helpful in Canberra. Our federal Labor colleagues last week announced only Labor governments provide –

Matthew Bach: On a point of order, Acting President, regarding relevance, it was a very narrow point of order raised by Minister Tierney earlier about relevance. Now we are straying, as is so often the case by government members, off to Canberra. This is clearly utterly irrelevant. The member should be brought back to the rest of her talking points regarding the actual motion before the house.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Sonja Terpstra): Dr Bach, there is no point of order. I remind members in this chamber that when a debate begins on a motion, if you go into areas that are beyond the terms of the motion, you open the door. Members are free to respond to it, but I ask Ms Ermacora to come back to the motion.

Jacinta ERMACORA: Our federal Labor colleagues last week announced that only Labor governments provide the protections tenants need and build the homes Victoria needs to grow our supply of housing. Our federal Labor colleagues announced an increase to Commonwealth rent assistance, the very first one in 30 years. In the same week, the federal parties of those opposite, the Greens and the Liberal Party, stood together to block the $10 billion housing future fund that was going to be established rather than vote with the federal government.

We cannot view this issue in isolation as there are many factors that are impacting on the difficulties renters are facing every day. Inflation and interest rates increasing the cost of living is the biggest hurdle of all. But Labor’s reforms include removing no-reason notices to vacate, allowing more renters to keep pets in their home, making it illegal to invite offers of rent above the advertised price, introducing rental minimum standards, limiting rental increases to once every 12 months and increasing housing supply by investing in the Big Housing Build, just to mention a few.

By introducing an Australian-first rental scheme that will make at least 2400 homes available to low to moderate income earners across the state, the government has tackled and will continue to tackle housing affordability and help renters get out of the rental market and transition into home ownership. The affordable housing rental scheme delivered as part of the $5.3 billion Big Housing Build will offer eligible income earners an affordable rental property for at least three years, backed by the security of government ownership. The $5.3 billion Big Housing Build is delivering 12,000 social and affordable homes over the next four years, creating more than 10,000 jobs in the process – practical actions on rental affordability.

But the government is not stopping there. It is also providing significant incentives for developers to enter the build-to-rent market, which provides more options and security for renters. Build-to-rent projects provide greater security of tenure by offering long-term rentals so people can stay in one place and put down more secure roots, with associated social and community benefits. Eligible build-to-rent developments completed and operational between 2021 and 2031 will also receive both a 50 per cent land tax discount and full exemption from the absentee owner surcharge for up to 30 years.

Obviously not every Victorian is in a position to purchase their own home. The government is committed to providing stable and affordable homes for all Victorians. It is not lost on me nor on the government that public housing availability is a difficult issue currently facing Victoria. The government is committed to resolving this availability issue through the Building New Homes to Fight Homelessness initiative, which in December 2022 marked a milestone of completing its first 1000 homes. Again, this is another practical action, not a motion. The government invested $469.1 million towards this initiative and invested $5.3 billion in the Big Housing Build, which is the largest single investment in social and affordable housing by any state or territory government, and made a commitment to deliver more than 12,000 new homes across the state. So far, more than 7400 properties have been completed or are underway. The people who will benefit the most from the government’s Big Housing Build are those who are at risk of or are experiencing homelessness. The government are building the social and affordable housing Victorians need to provide them with the dignity, security and stability of a home and are primarily focused on securing homes for young Victorians.

The Andrews Labor government has supported private renters to remain in their properties through the private rental assistance program, the Housing Establishment Fund and RentAssist bonds, and $50 million has been committed for 10 projects across the state to secure more accommodation for young people aged 16 to 24 at risk of or experiencing homelessness. In the Victorian budget 2022–23, $75 million was invested to transform services for Victorians experiencing or at risk of homelessness, including tailored support to get them into permanent housing. These are all significant investments that are transforming people’s lives and making a very real difference.

It is disappointing to see that those in opposition continue to be wilfully blind to the excellent steps that the government is making towards long-term resolutions to support renters and address housing affordability. However, the government is not wilfully blind to the issues facing renters. The proof is in the pudding. We have made groundbreaking changes to the Residential Tenancies Act and committed billions of dollars to infrastructure to combat the issues raised today, and I am very supportive of our strategy, which is full of actions rather than just simply a motion.

Matthew BACH (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (11:01): It is difficult to follow that – one of the most inane contributions that I have heard in this place in my time. I hope that is considered parliamentary language, certainly when we have heard such strong language from members of the government, even Mr Pearson earlier today. He said, ‘This is a stunt.’ Far be it from me, by the way, to consistently have to come to the aid of the Greens party, but I find that is part of my new role. I was doing it earlier today when I was talking about the Children, Youth and Families Amendment (Home Stretch) Bill 2023, which I second read. The government had pulled a previous bill because Dr Ratnam dared to introduce an amendment – that was a stunt – on raising the age of criminal responsibility, which, lo and behold, the government actually supports now. But nonetheless that was a stunt. Now it is a stunt to bring forward motions. We should simply all join in a chorus in praising the government ‍– and I am happy to praise the government when praise is due. I was actually doing so earlier today on the Children, Youth and Families Amendment (Home Stretch) Bill, which I second read, which word for word was taken from a previous government bill that you allowed to lapse – a fabulous bill. It had my wholehearted support, and many of the things that the previous member spoke about are in fact meritorious.

Nonetheless I would have thought we could all agree that the plight of renters in Victoria – and yes, the plight of landlords – is one that deserves our attention. I am not sure anybody in this chamber, even the most avid reader of talking points from the Premier’s private office, would argue that everything is rosy in renter land today – it is not – so I would put to the honourable member that we can bring forward motions like this working in collaboration across parties, which I would argue is a good thing. It was characterised by the previous member as an example of the Greens palling up with the Liberals, but nonetheless we can work together across parties to bring forward motions like this while certainly acknowledging, I would have thought, that all members in this place want to do better for renters, that of course some good things are happening but more needs to be done. I know in my electorate – and I am sure you hear the same, Acting President Terpstra, in the region that we both represent – that so many people out there are hurting. Rents are going through the roof. We know that many landlords are finding it harder and harder to rent out their properties; I agree wholeheartedly with the comments of Mr Mulholland. I think that we can do two things at once in this space. Both home owners and landlords say that things are becoming really tough with so many interest rate rises.

There was a gentleman who made a comment during Mr Mulholland’s contribution. I will not recapitulate it in full, but one element was, I think, ‘eff the economists’. I have great sympathy with that gentleman. I heeded the views of the economist who runs the Reserve Bank board and bought a home. My wife and I stretched to buy a home when he was saying, ‘Don’t worry, there won’t be any interest rate rises,’ and there have been 11 since then. Now we are in a very fortunate position where we are able to own – well, we do not own it, the bank owns it, but nonetheless buy – a modest home. Those economic conditions have hit renters as well – so hard – so I would have thought it was opportune to work together in this place to look at some of the things that this motion says we should look at.

The drivers of low rental supply – I am really concerned about supply. I would commend Mr Mulholland for his campaign on yimbyism. I think that is a fabulous campaign. In the region I represent I hear so often, especially from older folks who own their home, that they care desperately about amenity and do not want to see too much development. I empathise with that view, but I also think we can continue to work together to do better, especially for the many young people who do not necessarily want to live 1 hour and 20 minutes away from the centre of town but want to rent or, yes, seek to save really hard and put down a deposit for a home of their own in the middle suburbs where there is much better access to infrastructure. I think that is a really complex conversation, acknowledging that some older folks who own their own home, who have quite frankly over the years oftentimes had it pretty good, do not want to see further development. But nonetheless we need to do better in providing affordable homes and, yes, affordable opportunities for renters. I think that element ‍– I am looking at part (1) of the motion – is really important.

The ‘impact of low supply on renters’ – I think that is such an important thing to be looking at, given that we know that these pressures are so extreme on people renting in Victoria right now and people who just cannot get into the rental market as well because of price increases. I thought point (6) was particularly interesting also – ‘the effect on renters of rental stress’ – because I think oftentimes, coming back to that gentleman’s comments from the gallery, we can talk in dry terms in debates like this, but we are talking about people. We are talking about people who are oftentimes suffering shocking stresses in their lives. I think that we can listen to the best experts and get the best advice as long as we are also talking, as that gentleman implored us to do, with people with lived experience, who are doing it so tough right now.

As Mr Mulholland said, we on this side of the house do not agree with everything the Greens have to say on the broader rental issue. In fact we disagree strongly with some of the things they say on the broader rental issue, but I do not doubt that they come to this debate in good faith, as we do and as I am sure many members of the government do, notwithstanding the quite frankly idiotic comments of Minister Pearson this morning, labelling this a ‘stunt’ and berating the Greens for daring to bring forward a motion on rental assistance, given as we have heard from the government that everything is so rosy. Well, I would say everything is not rosy. We can commend the government for doing some good things in this area while also saying that there is so much more to do. We can work together as a chamber. That is our job, to do that.

I do not agree with everything that this motion is seeking to achieve and I do not agree with everything that other members around this chamber have to say on rent, but I do agree that when it comes to support for landlords, when it comes to support for renters, when it comes to the supply of housing, when it comes to issues that stop home owners putting properties up for rent and when it comes to rental affordability, we do need to have further conversations that I think can then lead to action. I am not a fan of having a committee on everything, but in this house recently we have seen very significant reforms flow from committee processes just like this. So again, I would say to members opposite who want to deride this action as simply a talkfest: look back at very recent history. We have seen committee processes in this place oftentimes lead very quickly to incredibly significant reforms, some of which I agree with and some of which I do not, but you cannot say that committees in this place just sit around and talk and never get anything done. It is just factually untrue. That is why I will be supporting the motion.

Sarah MANSFIELD (Western Victoria) (11:09): We know that many Victorians are doing it tough right now, and for the one in three Victorians who are renting, they are doing it tougher than most. They are staring down the barrel of overpriced, substandard housing for the foreseeable future. Let us not forget the 30,000 Victorians who spend each night sleeping rough in cars, on couches and in overcrowded houses. For them, the options have simply run out. As the Australian Human Rights Commission clearly states:

Every person has the right to an adequate standard of living, which includes the right to adequate housing …

Housing is a human right, one that we in positions of power have a responsibility to protect for all Victorians, not just the landlords and not just the wealthy few. If we do not, the legacy of this Parliament will be forcing more people into homelessness, overcrowded housing and substandard rental properties that are making people sick.

We have a responsibility to make sure every person in Victoria has access to safe, affordable, healthy housing where they can live, take care of their families and put down roots in their wider communities. We are a long way from achieving that, but we can and must make some urgent decisions to stop this rental crisis from getting any worse. People’s quality of life and their futures depend on it. The human rights commission also states that for housing to be deemed adequate, a range of factors must be addressed, including affordability, habitability and location, and we are falling well short of that mark. The Greens have heard firsthand from renters across the state who are living in houses that cost far too much for far too little, and for my constituents in Western Victoria this is an issue that is seriously impacting their lives.

One person we heard from was Marnie from western Victoria. Marnie is a victim-survivor of domestic violence and a single mum to five sons. With no support she was unable to keep the family home and has spent the past nine years renting and facing financial and emotional hardship, stress and instability for her and her boys. In six years she was evicted three times due to the landlord selling the property. Despite having an impeccable rental history and excellent references, it was nearly impossible to find a rental. It is not just the stress and the time that it takes to find a new home but the cost and upheaval of moving her belongings and her children over and over again that wear her down. The increase in rent each time she has had to move is forcing her into poverty, and Marnie is just not sure how she will manage and what the future holds. We have to ask ourselves: is this good enough? Is this giving Marnie and her kids a fair start in life? Marnie is just one of many constituents in Western Victoria who are in the midst of a devastating rental crisis.

Many areas of regional Victoria have some of the tightest rental markets in the country. In western Victoria the Surf Coast shire has a vacancy rate below 1 per cent and at times during the past few years has had a vacancy rate of zero. In Warrnambool rental costs have risen by 36.4 per cent over the past five years. Meanwhile, the neighbouring Colac Otway shire has the highest rate of homelessness in Victoria, and over 30 per cent of the shire’s households experience rental stress, meaning they are spending more than 30 per cent of their household income on rent. With those sorts of rents, people are making decisions they should never have to make, choosing between food and medication for themselves and their families to afford the latest rent hike – and if they are getting by, they face the instability and fear of future rent increases, and many might just be one increase away from being evicted into homelessness.

Short-stay rentals are another issue seriously impacting the rental market for my constituents in regional Victoria. Businesses, including hospitality and farms, and essential services like health care, early childhood education and schools are unable to attract workers. In these areas short-stay accommodation is abundant, but many of these holiday homes sit empty for large periods of the year at the expense of a family or an essential worker having access to a secure home. Victoria has some of the weakest regulation of short-stay accommodation in the country, and this has to change.

One of my constituents, Stuart, is a young dairy farmer who lives along the Great Ocean Road in the Moyne shire. He moved down the coast to find work after losing his job in retail when the pandemic hit. Stu was unable to find a rental near his new job in Peterborough, so he had to move to Terang, which is a 40-minute drive from the farm he was working at. Stu worked a morning and evening shift and had to make the round trip to work twice a day, driving close to 3 hours every day at dawn and dusk, often the most dangerous times to be on the road. The rent was no cheaper in Terang, but Stu had to wear the extra petrol costs and the risk of fatigue in driving on country roads for hours each day. Stu had to do this for over 12 months before he could find an affordable rental closer to his workplace. However, Stu says that he is now just one rent increase away from being forced out of the area and he would need to find a new job again. The real sting for Stu is that there are homes available in Peterborough – plenty of them in fact – but they are all short-stay rentals. Look on any day and you will usually find around 30 short-stay rentals listed in Peterborough on Airbnb and another 50 in Port Campbell, which is 10 minutes from Peterborough. A quick search yesterday of long-term rentals in the area showed just one house listed even close to being affordable in Port Campbell, with none available in Peterborough.

In a survey of 71 businesses operating along the Great Ocean Road, the top two stated reasons for businesses being unable to attract and retain workers were no local workers and a lack of affordable accommodation. Unless we fix this problem we are going to drive local businesses into the ground and give them no option but to close their doors, and that is already happening. We are proud of regional Victoria. It is where we holiday, it is where we go with our families and friends if we want to recharge, and for those of us who live there it is our home, it is our community and it is where we bring up our families. We have an obligation to start cleaning up the mess that successive governments have created and to make sure that we give current and future generations the security that they will have somewhere decent to live and for businesses to know that there is a sustainable future for them and our region, because fixing this housing crisis is not just the right thing to do – it is the smart thing to do for the sustainability of our health services and our social services that bear the brunt of homelessness and housing stress. As a GP I saw firsthand the impact that homelessness, difficulty affording housing and substandard housing had on people’s physical and mental health. It is something that is really hard to convey.

We know that we just cannot rely on landlords to do the right thing. Landlords are ignoring repairs, as we have heard, despite rolling in record profits from investment properties and increasing rents exponentially while expecting tenants to live in squalor. Renters want to hear their voices heard in this Parliament. They want and deserve action, and I acknowledge the renters who have joined us here today. We have heard how emotional this situation is for them, how real it is for them.

This rental inquiry is an opportunity to put evidence squarely in front of the government and provide an opportunity to act, but it appears that they are afraid of what it might reveal – afraid of the pressure it would create for them to act. This government has been telling us today that they want the Greens to work with them. We are here, we are willing and we have been trying to work with you. We want to see real outcomes, and when we hear concerns about rental affordability, when we raise them, we are offering the opportunity to work with us. We would like to work with you to get outcomes on this, but when we do not get action, it is our job to call that out, and that is what we are doing here today.

The government has also been quick to cite their record expenditure on social housing. We keep hearing about it. It is worth noting that that record is only possible because they had spent next to nothing on housing for so many years before the commencement of the current big build program. It is time to stop the complacency and face up to the fact that we are in the midst of the worst rental crisis in our living history, and we have no time to lose.

Sheena WATT (Northern Metropolitan) (11:18): I rise to speak on the motion regarding rental reform, and in doing so I would like to begin by noting that the Andrews Labor government has a track record of making housing and renting fairer for all Victorians. Having grown up in unstable housing I know the importance of real change and good governance. In my lived experience – and I might take a moment, and I think it is worth folks knowing here in the chamber – some of my earliest memories are of living in a caravan park. I have spoken about that time and time again and to people that I meet each and every day in my work as the Parliamentary Secretary for Housing. I have moved from house to house to house, never staying long enough to unpack a box, never changing or even daring to dream about painting the walls in a colour that worked for me, never hoping that I could have a pet at home because that was a dream too big for me and my family all those years ago. So I now am enormously, enormously proud to get up here in this chamber and talk about the changes that the Andrews Labor government has made, because from the lived experience that I bring to this job each and every day – from those early days in Dromana caravan park, from those early days in rentals that kicked us out because they found out we were Aboriginal or the house that kicked us out because they were going to renovate or the time that we got kicked out because my dad had a stroke and our family situation changed so desperately and so urgently that affordability for that home was just no longer a reality – I know all too deeply about what it means to live in rental stress.

I know very well each and every day what Victorians are living through, so I do not take any criticism that comes at me for being out of touch and disconnected, because each and every day I remember where I came from. I bring that to my job, and I bring that to being a very proud member of the Andrews Labor government. So I will say to those that are here today that need to hear about the lives of renters: it is not some abstract disconnect, it is very much my lived experience.

Merely talking about the problems is not the Labor way; I did not get in here to talk about the problems. I am here for action, and action is what we have been taking in this Parliament when it comes to rental reform. We have delivered over 130 reforms to strengthen renters rights, the sorts of reforms that I could have only dreamed about as a child. Let me tell you, I have spoken about those terrible places that I moved to time and time again. I never had the heating or the cooling that made life at home comfortable. The changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 mean that you now have homes free from mould and dampness, with proper ventilation and a working heater. I know just what a change that will make, because everyone deserves the house that they live in to be turned into a home, a warm home, a home that provides them with safety and security at the end of the day.

We have absolutely cracked down on rental increases, meaning landlords can only increase rent once every 12 months – that makes an enormous difference. And we have made it easier for renters to get their bond back. I cannot tell you how many times as a renter I fought so very, very hard to get my bond back, and that meant that while we were waiting for the bond to get back I was couch surfing or I was staying at a mate’s place or I was calling up time and time and time again and going, ‘When am I going to get my bond back?’ I absolutely understand the enormous challenges of getting your bond back. That is why I remember going out with the Attorney-General to see VCAT open up in Bundoora, in the Northern Metropolitan Region as it was then, and I knew what an enormous change it would make having that office open there, because tenants can make a claim for their bond without their rental provider’s agreement now. This is enormous.

We have removed no-reason notices to vacate and allowed more renters to bring their pets into their homes and make some modifications to their rented properties. Some may dismiss that and say things like ‘Whoop-de-do’ about these vital reforms, but every one of my mates growing up had a cat or had a dog at home and I did not because I lived in a rental. There was some dignity in being able to come home and, I do not know, pat your cat. I did not have that because I lived in a rental. This change matters; it really, really matters. It brings families together and it makes a home. So while some belittle these changes as insignificant, they are significant. I do not have childhood stories about pets at home, because I grew up in rentals. So I just want it absolutely known that the Andrews Labor government have taken action. Others trivialise reforms like the ones I have mentioned, but these make lives and homes safer, more affordable and of course fairer.

There is of course more work to be done; I am not denying it. It is not perfect out there, and the rental markets do need to operate more effectively for renters and rental providers. But on this side of the house the Andrews Labor government will keep working to support renters to ensure renting is fairer, more secure and affordable, because only Labor governments provide the protection that tenants need and build the homes Victorians need to grow our supply of housing.

This state government has built the really quite incredible and not to be diminished Big Housing Build, the biggest investment in social and affordable housing by any state or territory. It is historic in every sense. Only last week I was talking to some folks from overseas who said, ‘What have you done? What is it about?’ Because this is being talked about internationally. When I am getting calls and emails from global governments asking, ‘What is it about your Big Housing Build that makes it so special, and how did you get it through?’ I say it was about political will. It was about a recognition of the need for more affordable and safe accommodation right here in Victoria, and we stepped up in that budget and made that $5.3 billion available. I am really proud to tell local people in my community in the Northern Metropolitan Region and even those on the other side of the world that I am very happy about the Big Housing Build, because it is only Labor that recognises that having a safe and secure place to call home gives people a solid foundation to thrive. I understand it, I live it and I breathe it every single day.

We actually take action, because merely talking about problems is not the Labor way. Every new social and affordable home built across our state speaks to our government’s recognition of the importance of building a place to call home for a family in need. This investment also puts downward pressure on overall rental prices in the private rental market and improves housing affordability, and that is what the Big Housing Build is doing. We know that increasing building supply is, critically, a part of improving housing affordability, and only a Labor government delivers the homes people need, because we know a safe and secure home is the foundation for a good life.

I absolutely will not take – and I have said it before – being directed by political parties that have time and time again opposed our social and affordable housing projects. The Andrews Labor government stands for more social and affordable housing with our investment, and of course we want to work with our Canberra colleagues. I want it known that the Big Housing Build will secure 2000 homes for Victorians with a mental illness and 1000 homes for victim-survivors of family violence – that is incredibly significant and a key recommendation out of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

What is important to me, amongst all the other things that I have talked about, is more homes for Aboriginal Victorians. Ten per cent of these new dwellings will support Aboriginal Victorians to have culturally safe self-determined housing options, and many of these houses will be in the Northern Metropolitan Region. I am working with my colleagues right across the region and right across the state to make these a reality. Of course there is so much more that I could say; I could just about talk forever. But let me finish by saying that whether it is action here in the state or at local government or even up in Canberra, Labor does not stand in the way of more homes for Victorians.

Trung LUU (Western Metropolitan) (11:28): I rise today to speak in support of this motion on the rental crisis, and I welcome Mr Puglielli moving this motion. I would like to support this, mainly because of my lived experience of being in a rental property for a good part of my childhood. Growing up in a two-bedroom home with nine people from three families for many years has in many ways brought flashbacks, especially when people have come up to complain about or express their concern relating to their rental situation and how it has affected them in recent years. This motion gives us an opportunity to address the review and revise the situation of the legislation and regulations in relation to tenants and home ownership. It gives us an opportunity to actually address the situation at the moment of the decrease in living standards and the increase of the money which is required to be put up front when seeking premises.

So it is of great concern, particularly for me as a member for Western Metro, where a large number of constituents are of multicultural backgrounds. It has a very large socially disadvantaged cohort, most often migrants and refugees and a large number of international students – all of whom have a very large part to play in renting properties in my electorate. There are great effects at the moment with the banking system in relation to loans and increased repayments for home owners and property owners. It also affects them greatly in relation to whether they are able to survive – paying the rent, paying for their electricity bills or food or actually having to consider moving to a different location.

In relation to the rental properties in the west, there are terrible effects in relation to a particular cohort, mainly because of the language barriers as well. We would hopefully address how our legal system could help that cohort, who are disadvantaged in many ways – not only in relation to the affordability of the rent but also their ability to apply for a property in that situation and how to tackle and deal with the language barrier in relation to the legal system barriers as well. It would also give us an opportunity to look at ways of assisting home owners who have been in that situation for all of their lives. I know the government has mentioned it is doing a lot in relation to social housing, not only assisting them to have a roof over their head but also helping those who have been in those situations all of their lives into actually owning a property – actually trying to find programs to assist them to purchase a property or a flat, and to actually own it and not to continue renting. So hopefully this motion will give us programs or a way of assisting those in a rental situation to actually own a property.

It was astounding when Mr Batchelor from the opposite side mentioned earlier that the Greens and the Liberals are in a cohort or partnership in relationship to this sort of motion. I object to that. Whenever I stand up on this side of the Parliament to work with the Greens or any other party, it is mainly for the benefit of Victorians and the benefit of my constituents. It is not to make political points. It is basically for those people who are disadvantaged, for people in need who come to speak to me on this side of the Parliament in relation to assistance. We work with anyone – it does not matter if it is the government or the independents or the Greens or any other party or person in relation to policies that are good for our constituents. We do not work to get political points. So I was just a little disappointed that Mr Batchelor mentioned that we are working with the Greens. We will work with anyone for the benefit of our community.

Also, hopefully this motion will assist in relation to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal process for when renters have issues with their landlords, in relation to how things can drag on when recovering bonds or in relation to rental disagreements. Hopefully this will help renters have an easier process as they go through the actual process in relation to having any dispute sorted out without going through any legal costs or expenses or any hardship in relation to that. Hopefully this will address that and we can have some sort of review or recommendation on how we can make amendments to assist us going forward.

I do again thank you, Mr Puglielli, for raising this, because it does affect a lot of my constituents and I know it does affect a lot of Victorians as a whole. In relation to housing affordability at the moment, it affects house owners as well as those who are actually renting. Hopefully this motion will address and help not just those in a rental situation but will help them to move forward and assist them to proceed to actually owning a property down the track. It is not just about providing a roof. Hopefully there will be some sort of system down the track – not just continuing to have a rental situation – one that consists of helping them to actually own a home, as my family moved forward through our time here. After renting for many years, eventually we managed to purchase a premises. So hopefully this motion will result in some recommendations on how the government can source a program to assist those in a rental situation to actually own a property and actually have no issue in relation to home owners or whoever they are paying rent to. Hopefully this will move forward and assist the government to focus a little bit more not only on providing more social housing and more affordable housing but also on a program which assists those in a rental situation to actually own a property down the track. So hopefully this motion will have some recommendations on that aspect as well. So I do again support and welcome this, and thank you, Mr Puglielli, for actually raising this motion.

The PRESIDENT: Dr Ratnam has asked for the call. The clerks have advised me I can seek from the chamber if the chamber is happy for us to extend the debating time before Mr Puglielli’s 5-minute summing-up.

Leave granted.

Adem SOMYUREK (Northern Metropolitan) (11:37): I rise to speak on the motion before the house. I said at the outset I will be opposing the motion. I will be opposing the motion based on economic principle. You do not need an economics degree, you do not need to have studied economics 101; you just need a rudimentary knowledge of economics to understand that when supply outstrips demand, you have downward pressure on prices. Inversely, when demand outstrips supply, you have upward pressure on prices. That is essentially what we are dealing with here at the moment with the housing affordability crisis. We have a lack of supply. We have excess demand on the property market due to lack of supply of rental accommodation. That is putting upward pressure on rental costs.

That is a big issue; I get it. People ought to be able to afford their rent. It is all part of the cost-of-living pressures that we have got going on at the moment. But the problem is that this is a symptom; rental affordability is a symptom of a much bigger crisis, and that is the housing crisis that we are currently going through and that will get worse. What we are proposing here is a potential solution to the symptom by making the cause greater. So in effect what you are doing is potentially making the housing crisis worse, and that is bad public policy. It is just bad public policy. We need to get our heads around fixing the housing crisis. What we have got at the moment is a perfect storm. We have got projected population growth, exponential population growth, going through the roof. We have got a number of issues combining to provide a disincentive for investors to invest in housing stock. You have got high interest rates. You have got the cost of construction going through the roof for various reasons. You have got skills shortages. The last thing we need to do in tackling the housing crisis is to add another disincentive to providing more housing stock. That is the fundamental problem I have got with this. You cannot try to fix a symptom of a problem by making the problem – the cause – worse, thereby replicating itself.

In terms of intervention in the rental market, philosophically I believe governments should intervene where there is market failure, but in this instance the market failure is not at the end of the rental affordability. The market failure will kick in when people do not have roofs to put over their heads. That is when the government will need to intervene in a big way if we keep putting disincentives in the way.

Interjections from gallery.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I am going to stop this debate. If there is one more comment from the gallery, I am going to stop this debate and I am going to walk out, and the chamber is going to dissolve and the gallery will be cleared.

Adem SOMYUREK: Thank you, President. I do not need to say this, but I will. I was a bit bemused as to why the government member was going through her personal circumstances, but I grew up in public housing myself, so I have sympathy for renters. So it is not about that; it is not about that at all. It is about trying to find the proper fix, the proper solution, to this problem, to a real crisis we have got on our hands.

In terms of the politics of all of this, unfortunately a lot of the things that the Greens do are based on electoral politics. We know there are hotly contested seats in the inner city. There is a race to the bottom between the Greens and the Socialist Left Labor Party, and I fear that this might be a part of all of that. Again I say rental affordability is a big problem, but it is a symptom of a much bigger problem – that is, the housing crisis – and if you make the root cause of the problem worse, you will never be able to fix the symptom.

Moira DEEMING (Western Metropolitan) (11:42): Those of you who have read the Liberal Party platform will not find my position surprising. As a Liberal I believe that people should be free to create value for themselves and others and to earn reward from those efforts. I believe that free enterprise, coupled with fair and objective regulations, is the best way to solve society’s problems. I believe that where the private sector can deliver a service more efficiently and fairly than the government sector, unnecessary taxes and regulation should be avoided because they inevitably backfire.

There are already two excellent ways to hold negligent and corrupt landlords to account. One is, as was pointed out by others over there, a slow regulatory pathway via a tribunal and the law. This does indeed leave renters vulnerable and at a disadvantage, but what if renters had an abundance of good rental options available to them? We absolutely need excellent remedial options for rental disputes. But let us not abandon renters in a nightmare of bureaucracy; let us actually do what works. Let us empower renters by increasing and incentivising property supply through the free market so that landlords are subjected to some healthy competition so it is up to them to attract renters, who would be able to say to their dodgy landlords, ‘If you do not fix these problems, I’m just going to move to one of the other five options that I have.’ We need to empower renters. That means we need to give them market leverage as well as fair laws. We cannot go halfway. While I am at it, let us not pigeonhole people as renters for life; let us not forget that owning a home is actually the ultimate goal. Opposition to these kinds of rental controls is not a partisan issue. Economists on both sides of the aisle oppose it, from right-wing Milton Friedman to left-wing Gunnar Myrdal, both Nobel Prize winners.

In summary, I will give you six points. History shows that these kinds of interventions just do not work as intended. They create a short-term fix for a few people at the expense of long-term affordability for the broader population. The science of economics also tells us that rent controls not only limit new housing supplies but also lead to the removal of existing housing supplies from the market. They provide benefits to a small share of households but at enormous cost to renters in general, one being an objective inability for landlords to fund maintenance, and that is why rent controls like these lead to poorly maintained, outdated housing and the battles that we are all so familiar with – between the so-called innocent victim tenants and the so-called evil landlords – over upkeep, when what is really happening is that they are just two groups in our society that are stuck in between unjust and unwise laws.

Proponents often point to Europe as a success model, but they fail to point out the disastrous shortage of supply. In fact Assar Lindbeck, the famous left-wing economist, said that, short of bombing, he knew of no way to destroy a city that was more effective than rent control. These rent controls sharply reduce new construction to only pricey units and give way to a surge in for-sale shadow alternatives like Airbnbs and US-style condos, which are bought by small investors and rented out individually, ultimately making housing affordability and stability even worse. I know we all care about these same issues. You have brought them up. This is already happening in Victoria. And last, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, research has already shown that the removal of these rental controls after a long time of having them in place has led to increased housing supply, better maintenance and even less crime. As one of my favourite economists, Thomas Sowell, concluded, without analysis the proposed rent controls do sound utopian. Yet we already know from repeated painful lessons from history that the effects of these policies are unfortunate. Tenants face limited housing stocks that are either run down or unaffordable and landlords lose money and ultimately stop investing and building altogether, and that leaves the poor and the homeless worse off in every way.

The solution to getting affordable, high-quality housing is supply. We need to stop wasting time researching questions that we already know the answers to, and we need to get busy releasing more land and incentivising middle-class investment in the property market. That is how we help renters.

Rachel PAYNE (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (11:47): I rise to speak on motion 54 brought by Mr Puglielli. This motion seeks to require the Legal and Social Issues Committee to inquire into, consider and report on the rental crisis in Victoria and measures to make renting more affordable and secure for Victorians. Everyone deserves a place to call home. The rental crisis in Victoria is a significant issue for many members of our Victorian community who are increasingly being priced out of the rental market. There is a lack of housing stock, a lack of affordable rents and an erosion of tenants rights. Often those impacted by the crisis are more our most vulnerable – young and low-income households that are already living week to week.

I am a renter, and like many of my constituents and colleagues in this chamber, I have seen the rental crisis in Victoria firsthand. The number of properties available to rent keeps shrinking, and the prices of those available to rent keep rising. Even those lucky enough to have already secured rental accommodation are now experiencing rental price rises, with some increasing by as much as $200 a week. Some of my experiences to reflect on –

The PRESIDENT: Sorry, Ms Payne, I need to interrupt. The time for this debate has expired.

Aiv PUGLIELLI (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (11:48): I thank Ms Payne for the contribution that she was able to make just then with the time remaining. I thank everyone who has contributed to the debate today. While I am at it, again I would like to thank the renters with lived experience who have come to the chamber today to provide that reality in the room on top of the lived experience of those in this chamber already.

It has been disappointing at times to see federal lines of attack from Canberra being brought into this chamber in this conversation; we want to keep this relevant to the Victorian context. Nonetheless, while there are issues with particular elements from certain parties being raised in relation to the terms of reference of this inquiry, it has been collectively raised by all speakers in this debate that we acknowledge that there is more to be done and that we need to work together to get there. So, as has been raised by my colleagues, we need to collaborate, I would say, on this inquiry to ensure that we can take appropriate action on the rental crisis facing Victorians.

To me and the Greens it is very clear that we must take action now to make renting better and fairer in Victoria. For all the reasons I and my colleagues have outlined today, it is just so important that work is done to make renting more affordable, to increase housing supply and to ensure that renters have access to decent, safe and genuinely affordable homes in their community. I commend this motion to the house.

Council divided on motion:

Ayes (19): Matthew Bach, Melina Bath, Gaelle Broad, Katherine Copsey, Georgie Crozier, David Davis, David Ettershank, Renee Heath, Ann-Marie Hermans, Wendy Lovell, Trung Luu, Sarah Mansfield, Joe McCracken, Nicholas McGowan, Evan Mulholland, Rachel Payne, Aiv Puglielli, Georgie Purcell, Samantha Ratnam

Noes (19): Ryan Batchelor, John Berger, Lizzie Blandthorn, Jeff Bourman, Moira Deeming, Enver Erdogan, Jacinta Ermacora, Michael Galea, Shaun Leane, David Limbrick, Tom McIntosh, Harriet Shing, Adem Somyurek, Ingrid Stitt, Jaclyn Symes, Sonja Terpstra, Gayle Tierney, Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell, Sheena Watt

Motion negatived.

Business interrupted pursuant to sessional orders.