What is a rent freeze?
A rent freeze, a strict price ceiling, is similar to a rent cap but works differently. While a rent cap is an ongoing policy whereby rents can increase by a certain amount and under certain conditions, a rent freeze is a temporary measure that stops rent rises for a set period.
Rent-freezes have a long history of use in times of rampant inflation. Currently, it's a popular method in several cities across the world. In London, Sadiq Khan has called on ministers to grant him powers to freeze private rents for two years. Until earlier this year, in British Columbia, their rolling rent freezes since 2020 meant landlords could not raise the rent by more than 1.5 per cent. In New York, the city government already has the power to freeze rent rises, and elderly residents can apply for a rent freeze anytime.
In Australia, we have a history of rent freezes during inflation. Recently, Cherbourg implemented a rent freeze to deal with a mass influx of former residents returning home searching for affordable and culturally-appropriate housing. Curtin's wartime cabinet strengthened rent control in 1941, fixing rents at 1940 levels to help deal with inflation caused by wartime shortages.
Shouldn't the government just build more social homes?
Absolutely – the government should and could do both!
Building social homes takes a long time. So even if we got the government to commit to mass building public housing today, we'd still need to pursue solutions to the housing crisis in the interim.
That's why we are calling for an emergency rent freeze, to immediately stop the rental affordability and eviction crisis. At the same time, we'll continue pushing for a mass build of social housing.
Council rates have been going up. Shouldn't rents then too?
Earlier this year, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner raised Brisbane rates by 4.93%. However, house rents in Brisbane have increased by more than 20% in the last 12 months - the steepest annual increase on record. Unit rents have seen their steepest increase since 2009 at 12.5%. In the previous five years, rates have remained relatively stable while rents have risen exponentially.
Rents for houses in East Brisbane have increased by more than 26%, and in Chermside West by 25%. In our regions, it's even worse - in Gladstone, for example, rents have nearly doubled in five years, while out in Emerald, they've increased by more than 41%. Rents are rising far more dramatically and disproportionately than rates.
Inflation has been going up too. Shouldn't landlords be allowed to recuperate those losses?
The inflation we are living through is indeed hurting a lot of people. Everyday Queenslanders are paying more for fuel, food, and groceries while wages have stagnated. According to the ABS, the Consumer Price Index rose by 6.1% over the last 12 months. While landlords are also facing inflationary pressures, the record rent increases across the state in the previous year have been nearly triple the CPI rise. This means landlords are pocketing the difference while working people have to pay more and more to keep a roof over their heads on top of skyrocketing grocery and fuel bills. Rapidly rising rents have also added to the inflationary pressures across the country.
What would stop a landlord from increasing my rent by hundreds of dollars at the end of the two years?
Freezing rents for two years will stop the housing affordability crisis and give the state government the breathing space to find long-term solutions to rising rents. During this time, the Greens will continue to call for rent caps and stronger rights for tenants. Our Bill also introduces a 2% cap on rent increases every two years after the rent freeze is over.
What's to stop my landlord from evicting me?
The same eviction laws will still apply under a rent freeze. However, since we are backdating the rent freeze to 1 August 2022, landlords will have no financial incentives to evict tenants and then advertise the property at a higher rent. We know that currently, under unregulated rent rises, many landlords are kicking tenants out so that they can get new tenants in for a higher rent. This greedy and opportunistic behaviour from landlords has been a significant driver of the homelessness crisis we see daily in the news.
And since landlords will only be allowed to charge the median rent for their postcode, landlords will have no financial incentive to renovate a property just to charge higher rents.