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Call for rent caps as tenants face imbalance of power

Tenants advocates call for a cap on rent rises to combat the housing crisis, writes Irene Winter

Rental vacancy rates in Melbourne are at an all-time low, making it even harder for tenants to find places to live. The vacancy rate in Melbourne in January was 1 per cent, and nationally it hit a new low of 0.8 per cent, caused in part by a decrease in rental listings by 60 per cent since 2021. The latest Domain Rental Report shows the median Melbourne rent is $500 for a house (up 4.2 per cent on the previous quarter) and $480 for a unit (up 6.7 per cent).

Tenants Victoria, the state's peak advocacy body for renters, is calling for government intervention in the sector as the broader cost-of-living crisis forced many people to the brink.

Median apartment rentals in Melbourne have soared in recent months. (Photo: Pixabay)

Farah Farouque, the director of community engagement for Tenants Victoria, told The Burne the current rental crisis was an issue of supply, and that landlords held the upper hand in the market. Ms Faroque said the frame of discussion needed to move away from landlords’ returns.

“Housing is a human right, and shelter is vital. If we don’t have shelter, we can’t get a job, we can’t school our children," she said. Tenants Victoria is proposing a rental cap that would act as a ceiling on how much rents can be increased. Currently in Victoria there is no cap on the amount of a rent increase, only the frequency at which it can be raised. Ms Farouque said that while there had been improvements to the rights of tenants in recent years, work needed to be done to ensure those rights were undertstood and enforced. Software engineer Rebecca Owen is among thousands of Victorians whose rent has been raised recently. Ms Owen said she found it hard to access information about her rights as a tenant, and beliveed that affected her relationship with her landlord. “There’s a lot of really small situations where they seem to skirt the line and hope that I won’t kick up a fuss,” she said. “I’m dependent on them for my housing, and a lot of things will become very difficult very quickly if that gets pulled up from beneath my feet.” Ms Owen said that her recent rental increase has forced her to change her future plans, and begin searching for more affordable properties.


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