The rental crisis is pushing workers with jobs into becoming the working poor, with huge proportions of their income spent on keeping a roof over their heads. In Victoria, there are 35,000 households currently in rental stress. Advocacy group Everybody’s Home found that in Victoria there are currently no affordable regions for essential workers earning award wages.
The Victorian Government has taken concrete steps to begin to address the rental crisis faced by Victorian workers.
Despite these reforms landlords continue to operate in an environment of incentives that detract from renters’ access to secure, affordable housing. For example, landlords are incentivised by the market to keep properties vacant to push up rental prices in the area.
The VTHC's submission to the Inquiry into the rental and housing affordability crisis recommended:
- restrictions on invasive and unnecessary personal questions being asked of renters or their referees during applications
- an expansion on the current tax on vacant houses
- limit lease-breaking fees to no more than 8 weeks' rent
- establish a residential tenancies ombudsman to investigate and penalise breaches of tenancy law
- limit rent increases during tenancy agreements
- ban landlords from penalising renters who enforce their rights through VCAT or Consumer Affairs
- require landlords to provide a fixed cooling system in the main living area of any rental property as a minimum standard
Right to Shelter
Homelessness increasingly impacts working class people, creating a growing proportion of working poor. Homelessness may include sleeping rough, sleeping in a car, couch surfing, boarding or rooming houses, and may also include houses that are severely over-crowded and unsafe. 122,494 people were estimated to be experiencing homelessness on Census night in 2021. In Victoria, 47 people in every 10,000 were experiencing homelessness on Census night, a significant increase from 35 in 2006.
The compounding impacts of insecure work, low wages growth, an inadequate minimum wage and unaffordable housing has seen far too many people fall through the gaps. It is essential that every member of our society is afforded the fundamental right to a safe and secure home, regardless of circumstances. The Victorian Government should therefore legislate a ‘right to shelter’ to make it the Victorian Government’s responsibility to ensure every person in Victoria can access adequate shelter if they need it.
This legislation could be modelled on a right to shelter in New York City, which kick-started accurate data gathering on the number of unhoused people in New York City. It drove massive investment in homelessness services.
The VTHC's submission also recommended that the Government conduct a monthly rough sleeper count in Victoria, and legislate a right to shelter to create an obligation on the Victorian Government to ensure every person has access to safe and appropriate shelter.