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PM gears up for rent cap clash as housing bill returns

By Juliet Helmke
01 August 2023 | 12 minute read
Anthony Albanese 3 reb

The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, will bring the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill back to parliament in a last ditch effort to pass his hallmark housing package.

Failure to do so will give him the power to trigger a double dissolution election that could take place from October onwards.

The future of the legislation hangs on the Greens’ support of the measures. So far, the party has left the legislation in limbo as it asked for greater protection for tenants doing it tough as rental costs soared, and more certainty regarding the funding for building that will be available from the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund that’s to be leveraged on the stock market.

The government addressed the latter issue with a funding boost of $2 billion distributed throughout the states and territories to accelerate the construction of social housing. They also assured a floor of at least $500 million per year available from the $10 billion kitty to fund social and affordable housing.

When it comes to rental caps, however, the Prime Minister as well as the government’s Minister for Housing, Julie Collins, have made it clear that no federal mandate will be forthcoming.

“We’ve been very clear that we don’t have the levers available for rent freezes. Some of the states and territories have already ruled them out. What we have done is put renters rights on the national cabinet agenda,” Ms Collins told ABC News Radio on 31 July.

Separately on 31 July, Mr Albanese said to ABC Radio Sydney that he could not “negotiate on behalf of eight states and territories” on the issue of rental caps. Calling the scenario “absurd”.

Asked if he would pull the lever to send Australians back to the polls if the measure does not pass in this sitting, Mr Albanese wouldn’t say for certain. He did promise that he wouldn’t use the facility at his earliest convenience in October.

“There certainly won’t be an election in October,” the Prime Minister said.

“I’d rather not have it,” he added, referring to the option of calling an election. “I’d rather have this policy passed”.

Having added renters’ rights to the national cabinet agenda, the Prime Minister is banking on that concession coupled with social pressure to force the Greens to pass the bill.

Mr Albanese and Ms Collins both stressed that the country’s major homelessness organisations were all advocating for the bill’s passage.

Before parliament broke for winter at the end of June, seven of the country’s bodies involved in homelessness advocacy urged parliament to take up the bill, stating that while the new laws were not perfect, they had reached a consensus that it was better to move forward with the current proposals than to return to the drawing board.

“We have a clear mandate for it,” Mr Albanese said of the housing industry’s response to the bill.

“Housing groups, including whether its the Master Builders Association or the Housing Industry Association, or groups such as Shelter, and those who look after community housing and the homeless are all calling for this. Its just extraordinary that its been blocked,” he said.

“The Greens dont say that its bad policy, they just say we want more, therefore well have nothing,” he warned.

Echoing his comments, Ms Collins followed the same line:

“I hope that [the Greens] have been talking to some of the community housing providers, some of the homelessness services, some people in the construction sector. I mean, there is broad support for getting this bill through the parliament. When youve got the construction sector, youve got the housing sector and youve got the homelessness peak bodies all saying that they want this bill through the parliament and they want it through quickly, I would hope that people would listen.”

PM gears up for rent cap clash as housing bill returns
Anthony Albanese 3 reb
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Juliet Helmke

Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.

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