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Renters are a political force

The year is almost halfway over, and we have come to a critical juncture in the fight for renters’ rights in Victoria.

A recent article in The Australian referred to renters as a ‘new political force’ in Australia.

I couldn’t agree more.

Over the years, renters have watched ‘mum and dad’ investors making hundreds of thousands of dollars by simply having purchased property at the right time.  Inflated prices have burst the ‘great Australian dream’ of home-ownership for them and, statistically speaking, their children as well.  Many have ended up in public and community housing or even rough sleeping simply because the number of people in need vastly outnumbers affordable housing.

After years of gentrification in all major Australian cities, renters are discovering that they are not alone in their plight.

But what is even scarier than renters with a support network?  Renters who finally realise that they have the power to stand up against the mistreatment and neglect thrust upon them for far too long.

Photo courtesy of the Silicon Valley Renters’ Rights Coalition.

Yes, a new and powerful movement of renters are coming out of the proverbial woodwork and calling for meaningful change to tenancy laws across the country.  They understand that housing is the single largest expense for the vast majority of Australian households, who spend tens of thousands of dollars on this necessity regardless of whose name is on the financial asset.

They witness too many of their friends and neighbours experiencing housing stress, faced with the unbearable choice of feeding their families or paying the rent.

They recognise that the balance of power is continually tipped far too much in favour of homeowners and investors and refuse to continue being viewed as second-class citizens with limited rights.

And why not?  Is it really audacious of renters to ask for repairs to be undertaken, permission to own a pet or to hang a few pictures on the wall?  Why shouldn’t renters expect to be given a valid reason why they’re being evicted from their homes?  A person’s shelter and the security it affords families plays an integral role in delivering prosperity to current and future generations.  It is the foundation on which our local communities and our society is built.

It has been seven months since the Victorian Government announced a list of 14 reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act and we have yet to see any progress on this important legislation.  We want to see these changes introduced to Parliament before the state election delays the process even further.

Governments take note: Renters are, indeed, becoming a stronger political force.  Fear mongering of reduced rental supply and high prices will no longer deter the millions of renters in Australia who want the basic human right of a safe, stable and private place to call home.

With only 24 more sitting days left before the Victorian Parliament winds down for this term, the fight for renters’ rights will inevitably play out on the battlefield of the ballot box and beyond.

To renters, we say more power to you!  You are far more powerful than you think.

 

 

Originally published by Mark O'Brien, CEO of Tenants Victoria.  You can read the original here.