The Greens have forgotten housing

Renters in Victoria are being wrung dry by rising rents and insecure tenancies. One million of us rent. 24% of us experience “housing stress”; we fall in the bottom 40% of households by income and we’re spending more than 30% of what little we have on keeping a roof over our heads (link).

And it keeps getting worse. Every six months landlords and real estate agents hit us with “pay more or we’ll inflict the cost and trauma of seeking new accomodation on you”.

Higher rents for shorter leases, lower wages for casual hours... You better not get sacked, you better not get evicted...

Higher rents for shorter leases, lower wages for casual hours… You better not get sacked, you better not get evicted…

Ben Schneiders writes in today’s Sunday Age:

The forgotten people, Victoria’s 1 million renters
There are about 1 million Victorians who rent in a system that is heavily weighted towards the interests of landlords and has become steadily less affordable …

The interests of renters are unlikely to attract much attention in this state election campaign. When housing has received a mention in recent state and federal campaigns it has tended to focus on the woes of first home buyers – not renters.

For the working class in Victoria, every tenancy is precarious. For the landlords and real estate agent scum, any working class tenant who is not in housing stress should be paying more.

But The Greens reckon they haven’t overlooked housing. Trent McCarthy was quick to get a media release out this morning, “The Greens haven’t forgotten Northcote’s renters“:

The Greens introduced legislation into Parliament only a few months back that would have removed the ability for landlords to evict tenants without giving a lawful reason. And it would have required all rental properties to pass a ‘roadworthy’ – to meet basic standards in relation to repair, comfort, safety, facilities and energy efficiency.

It’s piss weak rubbish.

The Greens are not credible on housing. A “house roadworthy” and energy efficient requirements will not lower rents. On the contrary, these measures would drive rent increases and do little if anything to improve the quality of housing stock. They would create a lovely little market in house roadworthy certification.

Removing the ability of landlords to evict renters without cause would be a minor step in the right direction, but it is rendered meaningless in a world of six month leases. The six month lease cycle is a key weapon in the landlords campaign to squeeze the working class.

When it comes to affordability, it seems the only people The Greens are serious about are artists, their Arts and Culture policy calls for:

The provision of low rent working spaces for practising artists in under-utilised buildings.

If The Greens took renters seriously they’d have some serious housing policy. Security of housing in rental is abysmal. A real demand would be that once leased, tenants should be secure from eviction indefinitely.

Once you’re in a house, price increases are the real bastard. A real demand would be for serious price controls and strict limitation on increases during tenancy. shows how Australian rental conditions compare. shows how Australian rental conditions compare.

But neither price controls nor greater security of tenancy address the fact that housing is a basic human need. Access to housing should hostage to private landlords, who operating through a few real estate agents are practically a cartel arraigned against the working class.

As workers and renters we should demand a right to secure, cheap and comfortable housing. We should demand the kind of investment in social housing, democratically self-controlled social housing, that could give the working class a bloody alternative to the cutthroat antics of the private rental market.

Bonus! Lets Hang the Landlord!

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