Give states $16bn in return for nationwide rent freeze, Adam Bandt says

Freezing residential rents possible, Greens leader to tell National Press Club, thanks to ‘wall-to-wall Labor state governments’

The Albanese government should pay the states $16bn more for affordable housing in return for a promise to freeze all residential rents for two years, Adam Bandt says.

On Wednesday the Greens leader will present a plan to save $4.7bn over 10 years by ending tax breaks for property investors to reinvest in affordable housing and double rent assistance.

In a speech to the National Press Club, Bandt will argue that a rent freeze is “both legally and politically possible”, rejecting claims by Anthony Albanese that the idea is “absolute pixie dust” because housing policy is largely controlled by the states.

The Greens are still locked in negotiations over Labor’s $10bn housing Australia future fund, which Bandt will say “will not pass the Senate in its current form” unless the government does more to tackle the housing crisis.

With rents up about 10% in the last year, tenants have on average forked out an extra $52 a week on rent, or an additional $2,727 a year, due to low supply of rental housing.

In plans costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, the Greens propose $69.4bn of spending over 10 years on doubling rent assistance ($43.6bn), creating a fund to incentivise states to freeze rent ($16bn), and building 225,000 publicly owned rental properties ($9.8bn).

The rent freeze fund would double the $1.6bn given to states every year under the national housing and homelessness agreement on the condition that the jurisdiction freezes rents for two years and limits increases after that.

In excerpts of his speech, seen by Guardian Australia, Bandt says “millions are stressed just trying to keep a roof over their heads”, including essential workers who “would have to spend two-thirds of their income on rent to afford a place in our capital cities”.

Bandt cites Scott Morrison’s decision during the Covid pandemic to seek a moratorium on evictions as evidence the federal government can use national cabinet to “collectively act to protect the interests of renters”.

“Many state governments already limit rent rises to once a year, and if they simply extended that to two years, there would be a two-year rent freeze,” he says.

“It is unacceptable and irresponsible for the prime minister to throw his hands up and put the Greens’ rent freeze proposal in the too-hard basket when Labor holds almost every seat around the national cabinet table.

“With wall-to-wall Labor state governments on the mainland, Labor can’t pass the buck on the rental crisis any more.”

Bandt also cites the tax expenditure statement as evidence the government is giving out “billions … to investors and landlords through negative gearing and capital gains tax handouts”.

He claims the measures are “driving up prices and rents”, although proponents of negative gearing argue it increases rental supply.

The PBO costings found that $74.1bn could be saved over 10 years by immediately abolishing the 50% capital gains discount for individuals for assets held for more than 12 months and phasing out interest deductions for individuals with more than one investment property bought before 1 July 2023 over a five-year period.

The PBO warned the policy “would greatly reduce the return on investment for landlords such that many would be unlikely to invest without either a significant fall in prices or a significant increase in rents”.

Bandt says the policy would target “people who own three, four, 12 or 25 properties”.

“It is about the 20,000 wealthy moguls who own more than six properties each and claim these handouts for the 151,000 houses they own between them.”

The Greens want the housing Australia future fund bill amended to guarantee $5bn of spending on social and affordable housing, up from the current limit of $500m.

Labor has not proposed any changes to capital gains tax and negative gearing since it lost the 2019 election promising to slash the tax concessions.

The economic inclusion advisory committee has recommended a boost to rent assistance, now under consideration for the May budget.


Paul Karp Chief political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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