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Why the NSW election is poised to be a renter’s election

By Kyle Robbins
07 February 2023 | 11 minute read
jemima mowbray tenants union nsw reb btcymu

Renters could be the defining factor at the 25 March state election, with more heading to the polls than ever before, according to the Tenants’ Union of NSW (TUNSW).

With the number of renting households in Australia’s most populated state growing by 17.5 per cent between the 2016 Census and its most recent edition in 2021 and several key issues affecting these citizens, Jemima Mowbray, policy and advocacy manager at the TUNSW, explained the state’s political party should prepare for their fate to be sealed by renters.

A cost-of-living crisis, which dominated discourse heading into last year’s federal election, is set to rear its head in just over a month at the polls. While the state’s political parties have enacted numerous schemes and promises with election victory in mind that focus on entering the housing market and removing stamp duty, the cost-of-living crisis is still plaguing NSW’s households — renters in particular.

Renters fork out more on energy bills than home owners due to the inadequate heating and cooling within most rental properties, which research from the Crawford School of Public Policy suggests costs them $150 more per year.

But the energy and living costs are not the only crisis facing NSW renters. A rental crisis, which according to the Real Estate of NSW (REINSW) is unlikely to end any time soon, sees vacancy rates in the state capital Sydney sit at 1.8 per cent, with the imminent return of international students likely to force this figure to decrease. 

According to the Trade Union of NSW (UNSW), nearly two-thirds of the state’s low-income private renters live in rental stress, meaning they are parting with more than 30 per cent of their income to afford their weekly rent. 

Further research released last year by the Community Housing Industry Association estimated 221,500 households in NSW were experiencing either homelessness, overcrowded homes, or rental stress. 

Compounding the crisis is the fact that rents rose astronomically throughout 2022. Australia-wide, they hit a record high of 10.2 per cent annual growth last year, with rents in Sydney at 11.4 per cent during that time. Median rents in NSW metro regions are $590 per week, while regional renters can expect to fork out $475 on average. 

These factors all culminate in the belief that the 2023 NSW State Election will be defined by renters.

In a number of key marginal seats across the state, renters make up a significant portion of the electorate. In Parramatta, 56 per cent of the community rent, while in Ryde, this percentage dips to 42.7 per cent and further down to 36 per cent in Penrith and Drummoyne.

For this reason, the TUNSW declared: “It is clear to us that voters, especially in many of these marginal seats, will directly be confronting pressures from increased rents and high energy costs.”

Why the NSW election is poised to be a renter’s election
jemima mowbray tenants union nsw reb btcymu
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