Wood Property

Putting in a rent freeze has been tried. What happened?

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Putting in a rent freeze or controls has been floated by the Greens as a solution to cool Australia’s red-hot rental market. It’s a feel good idea but most people agree that it wouldn’t work. Rather than debate what impact a rent freeze might have, we can see the results where it has already been tried.

In September 2022 Scotland brought in a 6 month rent freeze and eviction ban as part of emergency measures to combat the cost of living strain and housing cost crisis. The freeze only applied to existing tenancies, and there is no cap on what could be charged for an open market rental.

Firstly, let’s compare the pair:

ScotlandVictoria
Population5.5 million6.7 million
Rent growth in 202213.9% (Citylets)13.9% (corelogic)
Average apartment rent A$610/wk (Glasgow)A$510/wk (Melbourne)
% of population renting 37%31%

From a market size and position perspective, Victoria and Scotland are similar so we can assume market controls would have a similar impact.

Here are some of the outcomes that are happening in Scotland now.

Further to the 6-month freeze, rent controls have been extended from April 2023 to Sept 2023 with a cap on private sector housing rent increases of 3%.

Clearly the housing shortage in Glasgow and other cities around the world is more than an economic or property problem. It is a vital human issue. A home at the centre of our fundamental needs.

It is clear from the Scotland experiment, rental controls don’t work. They feel good in the short term and may even help people through a tight spot. However, they just kick the can down the road and make the problem worse.

Back home, a recent report by Infrastructure Victoria addresses the housing shortage. The report states that transport and amenities cannot keep up with the urban sprawl density we need to increase medium level residential development in existing suburbs. It is also advocating for the phasing out of stamp duty to enable better utilisation of our existing housing stock which would help ease housing availability and affordability.

The answer is obviously more homes, but this takes time. To avoid a shortage crisis situation we need to move quickly to create homes at a price people can afford. Governments can play a big role with social housing, but the market housing is a private sector solution. Governments can facilitate rapid supply of market housing by making the planning process faster and more certain, as well as incentivising capital like superannuation funds to invest in the sector.

Market interference such as rental controls often have unintended consequences. We are better off addressing the cause for a sustanined solution.

2 Responses

  1. How can you freeze rent for 2years and not freeze interest,rates and taxes , land tax & all the water rates etc. This will make it even worse for the renters as all the land lords will exit the rental market. Also are the greens then going to freeze land lords selling their rentals as well. Are are the greens going to convertAustralia in to a socialist country. We all might as well do no job and just depend on govt hand outs to live

  2. As land lords we too have to pay additional interest and out goings. Its just not renters. Interest rates have gone up so much. Being retirees we are unable to bear all these costs. If they bring rent freeze then its no point having a rental property.

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