The Greens will block Labor’s $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund in the Senate unless the federal government forces the states to freeze rents for two years and tackle the “rental crisis” facing the country.
Greens leader Adam Bandt is due to outline an ambitious range of policies designed to boost affordable housing in a National Press Club speech on Wednesday that underscores policy differences between the Greens and Labor.
The federal government attempted to pass its housing policy in March but could not strike a deal with the Greens on the $10 billion investment fund, which is supposed to generate income that would pay for 20,000 social housing properties and 10,000 affordable homes over five years.
The Greens’ policies include doubling the $1.6 billion spent on the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, doubling the Commonwealth rent assistance payment, abolishing the capital gains discount on assets more than 12 months old, building 225,000 new publicly owned rental properties over a decade and axing the tax deduction on interest payments for people who have more than one investment property.
States would only be able to access the expanded housing fund if they agreed to freeze rents for two years.
Ahead of Friday’s national cabinet meeting, Bandt will argue that “renters are in crisis across the country, and the PM must show leadership by putting a rent freeze on the national cabinet agenda and pushing the states to take action.
“A rent freeze is both legally and politically possible. During the pandemic, national cabinet decided to collectively act to protect the interests of renters with a moratorium on evictions,” he will say, according to speech notes.
“The Victorian, South Australian, Tasmanian and ACT governments all froze rent increases during the pandemic. 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.
“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.
“There is a full-blown nationwide rental crisis and it must be confronted.”
The crossbench party’s policies would cost a total of $69.4 billion to implement, but the axing of tax breaks for property investors would raise $74.1 billion and leave the budget bottom line nearly $5 billion better off.
While Labor is unlikely to adopt the Greens’ policies, the Press Club speech sets down an important series of markers and serves as a starting point for negotiations with the government.
The Australian National University’s 2022 election study revealed that 22 per cent of all renters voted for the Greens, compared with 37 per cent who voted for Labor, 26 per cent for the Coalition and 16 per cent for others.
An earlier version of this story referred to the National Housing Affordability Agreement. The story has been updated to correct the name to the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. The mistake was contained in the media release issued by Greens leader Adam Bandt’s office.
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