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Covid-19 Housing Crisis & Rental Stress Needs Emergency Measures: Greens

Media Release
Mehreen Faruqi 18 Mar 2020

Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Australian Greens spokesperson for Housing is demanding emergency measures to support people to keep a roof over their heads during the COVID-19 pandemic. At this difficult time when there are even more workers in precarious work and others needing to take time off we must guarantee there will be no evictions and enough resources for crisis housing.

Emergency measures in housing are required to give people protection, security and stability during this public health crisis. Close to half (43%) of low-income households are already living under rental stress in Australia. This means many families and people are one paycheck away from being unable to pay their rent, facing eviction and potentially homelessness. Crisis housing services, many of which are overcrowded, are also struggling to cope without extra resources to offer isolation to people who may be symptomatic of the virus.

These measures should be implemented in addition to workers’ protection from layoffs, guaranteed sick leave and other pay protections.

  • Eviction moratorium - We must protect tenants from the threat of eviction by instituting a moratorium on all evictions. At the moment, a patchwork of State and Territory laws govern evictions with most allowing for eviction if the tenants are 14 days or more behind with their rent. This should be scrapped immediately.
  • Fund crisis housing - Crisis and transitional housing providers are struggling with no extra resources available during this health crisis to accommodate people who are sick or have to be isolated due to COVID-19. The Federal Government must increase homelessness funding under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement to $500 million per year and release these funds immediately to States and Territories.
  • Freeze rents - A nationwide rent freeze with no increase in rent from the start of 2020 and for the duration of the health crisis. This should be followed by restricting rent increases for the duration of 2020, so there can be no price gouging after the crisis has passed. Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) should also be increased.

Australian Greens Housing Spokesperson, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, said:

“In the developing crisis, the government has a responsibility to ensure that no one ends up at risk of homelessness or further rental stress. We must take immediate steps to ensure that no one can be evicted.

“If you can’t pay rent, you should not be forced out onto the street. It’s that simple.

“Work is becoming even more precarious with millions of people unable to access sick leave. Self-isolation is putting many people out of the workforce.

“Urgent responses are required now. We must put a moratorium on all evictions, fund crisis housing, and institute a nationwide rent freeze. Now more than ever, people must be guaranteed a roof over their head and a safe and secure home. Everyone has the right to an affordable and permanent home.

“This will require governments to work together and implement these critical measures as a matter of urgency. The federal government should be leading from the front on this.

“The most vulnerable and marginalised in society stand to suffer most at this time. Emergency funding must be provided as people experiencing homelessness are at particular risk of being unable to socially distance or access the support they deserve.

“Housing in Australia is already completely messed up. We need unprecedented intervention in housing, and now it’s crucial that we act swiftly to deal with this emergency."

Leader of the Australian Greens, Adam Bandt MP, said:

“Millions of people will go through financial stress over the coming months, and we fear that without increased rental assistance and a social safety net that looks after everyone, many people will be pushed to the brink.

“Landlords need to stop and consider their actions during this time of crisis. Eviction is traumatic and stressful at the best of times – but being forced onto the streets during a financial crisis would be a disaster.

“People who are struggling need to know they’ll be able to find new work with a roof over their head. During the coronavirus people may also need a place to self-isolate in, and a pantry to keep food in.

“The Government must step in and make it clear that anyone who is struggling financially won’t be kicked out of their home when they need it most. Only through an eviction moratorium can we give people stable and secure housing through this crisis, and the Federal Government must commit to this as soon as possible.

“An eviction moratorium will also reduce the burden on crisis housing services, who will no doubt see increased demand over the coming months.”

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