OUR SAY: Renters’ needs and numbers are growing with every year

FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH: Renters form a larger and more powerful cohort than ever before.
FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH: Renters form a larger and more powerful cohort than ever before.

The conversation about housing affordability has tended to focus on young people struggling in an overheated property market to realise the Australian dream of home ownership.

And rightly so.

But the debate has tended to ignore the rights and needs of those who rent. This is finally changing.

We have published stories in the past two editions of the Central Western Daily about the struggle some renters have faced in Orange.

Battles with landlords and agents withholding bonds, getting repairs done in a timely fashion, termination notices and lease-breaking fees are just some of the more common complaints.

As reported in Saturday’s story, the number of Orange rental property tenants seeking help from a tenants’ advice service has risen by 15 per cent in the past year.

Which points to the need for change to rental laws … but is change forthcoming?

Just last month, the NSW opposition announced important changes it would introduce in government. Along with an end to unreasonable evictions and limits on the frequency of rent reviews, Labor would introduce the option of five-year tenancies, while making 12 months the minimum.

This would help ease one of the major anxieties of the long-term renter, which is security.

NSW Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean was next to the table, revealing the government was working on a comprehensive package that would “make life fairer and better for renters”.

Along with much of the above, those changes ensure tenants aren't kept waiting needlessly when repairs and maintenance are required.

It is no coincidence that the discussion of renters' rights has begun in a time when the housing affordability debate has reached fever pitch.

The property market forces many young people to rent, sometimes for years, while they save for a deposit on a home.

It inclines others to opt out of the housing market altogether, figuring they will get better value out of renting than by slaving for decades to pay off a hefty mortgage.

A generation ago barely a quarter of Australians rented, while more than 40 per cent owned their homes. Now both groups constitute about one-third of the market.

Renters form a larger and more powerful cohort than ever before. Hopefully future laws will reflect their numbers and needs.

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