It has been refreshing to see housing become a major focus for the State Government and media alike in recent months. This is a welcome development to those of us in the housing and community sector who have been working so hard for so long to inspire positive change.
More importantly, it is a boon to so many public and private renters who need to know they’re not second-class citizens.
With this renewed attention comes a great deal of work to be done. Tenants Victoria has been active with several projects over the past few weeks.
Public housing has been a focus since the State Government’s safety alert about Vulcan Heritage and Pyrox gas heaters in March. Together with the Victorian Public Tenants Association, we have been consulting with the Department of Health and Human Services to raise tenant concerns about and issues with the gas heater replacement program, improve information flow to affected tenants, and ensure that they are transitioned to safer forms of heating that won’t disadvantage them financially.
Last month, the Federal Government’s Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport commenced an inquiry into biotoxin-related illnesses in Australia. This is welcome news for Tenants Victoria, who have long fought for the legislation of minimum health, safety and energy efficiency standards. We receive too many calls every year from tenants whose health has been adversely affected by mould in their homes that they have no hope of combatting on their own. The fact is that they shouldn’t have to: There are clear steps that the Federal, State and Territory governments can take toward making renters safe in their homes. You can read more about this issue and our submission to the inquiry at: www.tuv.org.au/news/201808_biotoxin-inquiry
The latest and arguably largest development in our sector was this month’s introduction of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill to Parliament, colloquially known as the ‘RentFair’ Bill.
We believe that this bill is measured and contains a number of common sense reforms that will benefit tenants and landlords alike. There are over 1.5 million people making their lives in rental homes in Victoria, and the laws governing tenancy have remained static for too long.
For many, renting is no longer a transitional phase in life that one experiences on the way to homeownership. Renters come in all ages, cultures and demographics. The fastest growing groups of renters in the country including families and the elderly. These groups not only deserve the ability to have stability and build their lives in safe homes, they need it in order to thrive within their communities.
As more and more people rent for longer periods, it becomes more important than ever to create a balance in this fast growing market. We believe that the work and consultation that has gone into creating this bill over the past four years has resulted in reasonable and proportionate changes that will help support the community as a whole without disadvantaging any one group. You can find out more about what this bill means for Victorian renters on the Make Renting Fair website: www.makerentingfair.org/rentfair_impactsforrenters
This bill has now passed through the Lower House, and we strongly support its passage through the Upper House before the state election. With only six sitting days left to get it done, we urge MPs from both houses to get behind these changes and make a positive difference for today’s renters and those who will enter the market in the future.