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Community leaders sound alarm bells over rental reforms

Media release - 17/8/2017

Fifty-five* CEOs and community leaders have written to the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews this morning warning that prospective changes to the Residential Tenancies Act will adversely impact 1.5 million Victorians who rent their homes, leading to greater housing insecurity and homelessness.

The open letter states that options under consideration ‘would significantly reduce the safety, stability and privacy of Victorian renters, particularly those who are already socially and economically disadvantaged and/or at greater risk of homelessness’.

Groups at greatest risk include ‘women, single parents, CALD communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and vulnerable Victorians who experienced homelessness, housing insecurity, family violence, disability, mental illness or who have caring responsibilities.’

The letter calls on Premier Andrews to ‘rule out changes that would result in the negative outcomes outlined above’. These changes include reducing the grounds for breaches and evictions to include minor complaints from neighbours and rent payments that are one-day late.

This unprecedented political intervention in the rental area has been spearheaded by the Make Renting Fair Campaign, a community-based campaign that is advocating for ten key policy proposals that would give renters greater safety, security of tenure and privacy in line with other jurisdictions.

Campaign Spokesperson, Mark O’Brien, said that the latest Census data has revealed that Victoria, and Melbourne in particular, are quickly becoming communities of renters rather than owners.

‘With almost 1-in-3 Melburnians renting their homes, the Victorian Government can no longer treat tenants as second-class citizens with second-class rights. Everyone needs the basics – safety, stability and privacy – regardless of whether they rent or own.’
‘The big changes we are seeing to the profile of renters includes more young families, more low-and-middle income workers, and more older Victorians and retirees on fixed incomes. Victorians today are renting for longer periods of time and our laws are woefully inadequate.’

‘Holding down a job, running a business or raising kids requires long-term stability so people can plan for the future and not spend their lives looking over their shoulder.’

“The Victorian Premier has acknowledged our affordable housing crisis and has made a number of positive moves to support people experiencing homelessness. The other piece of that puzzle is strengthening the rental market to make sure people can get into housing and to keep it over the long-term.’

‘We all need more than a roof over our head. We need a place to call home and to build a life around. One and a half million Victorians are asking the Premier to give them a fair go at that.’

The Make Renting Fair Campaign will continue to advocate for fair rental reforms in the lead up to Cabinet consideration of a reform package and the introduction of new laws into parliament. It has already gathered 4,000 signatures in support of its policy platform.

The full text of the letter is available here.

List of signatories:

  1. Mark O’Brien
    Make Renting Fair Campaign and
    Tenants Union of Victoria

  2. Antoinette Braybrook
    Aboriginal Family Violence & Prevention Legal Service
     
  3. Hayley Mansfield
    ARC Justice
     
  4. Lisa Sweeney
    Australians for Mental Health
     
  5. Mick Geary
    Banyule Community Health
     
  6. Nick Hudson
    Barwon Community Legal Service
     
  7. Celia Adams
    Beyond Housing (formerly Rural Housing Network)
      
  8. Glenn Campbell
    Carer's Victoria
     
  9. Alan Kirkland
    Choice
     
  10. Jenny Smith
    Council to Homeless Persons
     
  11. Ronda Held
    COTA Victoria
     
  12. Mayor Kim Le Cerf
    City of Darebin
     
  13. Mayor Jim Memeti
    City of Greater Dandenong
     
  14. Mayor Amanda Stone
    City of Yarra
     
  15. Lyn Morgain
    cohealth
     
  16. Gerard Brody
    Consumer Action Law Centre
     
  17. Jenny Davidson
    Council of Single Mothers and their Children Victoria
     
  18. Fiona McCormack
    Domestic Violence Victoria 

  19. Michael Smith
    Eastern Community Legal Centre

  20. Nicholas Aberle
    Environment Victoria

  21. Irene Bouzo
    Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (via letter of support)

  22. Serina McDuff
    Federation of Community Legal Centres

  23. Claudia Fatone
    Fitzroy Legal Service

  24. Anthony Kelly
    Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre

  25. Phyll Williams
    Housing for the Aged Action Group

  26. Kirsty Waller
    Housing Justice Bendigo

  27. Sarah Rodgers
    Hume Riverina Community Legal Service

  28. Dan Stubbs
    Inner Melbourne Community Legal

  29. Fiona McLeay
    Justice Connect

  30. Tony Keenan
    Launch Housing

  31. Vicki Sutton
    Melbourne City Mission

  32. Gerry Naughtin
    Mind Australia

  33. Noel Mundy
    Mission Australia

  34. Nassim Arrage
    National Association of Community Legal Centres

  35. Adrian Pisarski
    National Shelter

  36. Ngila Bevan
    People with Disability Australia

  37. James Tresise
    RMIT University Student Legal Service

  38. Cathy Humphrey
    Sacred Heart Mission

  39. Jason Davies-Kildea
    The Salvation Army

  40. Marie Piu
    Tandem Carers

  41. Peter Worland
    Uniting

  42. Angus Clelland
    VICSERV

  43. Wayne Muir
    Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service

  44. Emma King
    Victorian Council of Social Service

  45. Dan Nicholson
    Victoria Legal Aid

  46. Maggie Toko
    Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council

  47. Mark Feenane
    Victorian Public Tenants Association

  48. John Blewonski
    VincentCare Victoria

  49. Elizabeth Crowther
    Wellways

  50. Stephanie Price
    West Heidelberg Community Legal Services

  51. Denis Nelthorpe
    WestJustice

  52. Robyn Gregory
    Women's Health West

  53. Joanna Fletcher
    Women's Legal Service Victoria

  54. Leo Fieldgrass
    Youth Affairs Council of Victoria

  55. Ariel Couchman
    Youth Law

*Note: Victoria Legal Aid were added to the letter after publication, meaning the number of supporters has been updated to 55.