Part of the Greens’ Housing Justice platform for the March 2024 Brisbane City Council election.
Rents in Brisbane are increasing at the fastest rate of anywhere in the country. Asking rents in Brisbane have jumped a staggering 45% since the start of 2021.
Things are still getting worse. Asking rents have increased by 12.7% in just the past year. Meanwhile, the average wage has only increased by 3.6%. Forecasts show Brisbane apartment rents could jump by another 30%, the fastest growth anywhere in Australia.
Nearly four in ten Brisbane households rent their home. Renters know the fear and worry about another huge rent hike that comes with every lease renewal. An increase like that can mean uprooting your kids from the local school because you have to move. It can be the difference between paying for groceries and going without.
Brisbane residents don’t deserve to suffer like this. If rents continue to skyrocket, more people will be evicted and will end up on social housing waitlists, breaking up communities and pushing families over the edge.
Greens on Brisbane City Council would:
- Freeze rent increases in Brisbane for 2 years to let wages catch up and give renters relief.
- Enforce the rent freeze by charging significantly higher rates on any property investor who raises the rent above January 2023 levels.
- Make sure renters are protected even if they move house by tying the rent freeze to each home rather than to each tenancy.
- Support strong legal protections for renters at a State level, including legislated rent caps, ending “no grounds” evictions, stronger minimum standards and banning rent bidding.
Emergency rent freeze
While Council cannot change State tenancy law, it does have significant power to set rates, including separate rates categories depending on whether housing is affordable.
The Greens in Council would implement an emergency two year freeze on rent increases for rented homes across Brisbane.
The Greens’ plan would:
- Make it extremely costly for property investors to raise rents by charging much higher rates if they do.
- Create a new rates category, ‘Uncapped rental home.’ Properties where the rent is raised above the rent that was charged on 1 January 2023 would be reclassified into this new rating category.
- The rates for properties in the ‘Uncapped rental home’ category would increase by 650%
- In practice almost no investors would raise the rent, since doing so would mean they lose money.
There are already dozens of separate rating categories, including different rates for investors vs owner occupiers. After pressure from the Greens, the LNP recently created a new separate rates category for AirBnB (‘Transitory Accommodation’), with a rates penalty of 150%.
How the rent freeze would work
The emergency rent freeze would apply to each individual property, not individual tenants, meaning that tenants can’t be kicked out to jack up rents.
It would apply to both new tenancies and existing tenancies, meaning new renters would be protected even if they move. Investors and real estate agents would not be able to charge more rent than was charged on 1 January 2023 for that home.
Where a home has not previously been rented out, or where it has been substantially renovated, Council would establish a baseline rent. The baseline rent would be set on a suburb-by-suburb basis according to the median rent for that style of housing, e.g. a townhouse in Morningside, or a unit in the CBD. Any increase above the baseline would lead to the property being reclassified as an ‘Uncapped rental home’ and would attract the 650% rate increase (so the property's rates would become 750% of a standard rates bill).
Property investors would not be able to raise the rent preemptively, because the Greens’ proposal is tied to rents in 1 January 2023.
The Council rent freeze would make sure property investors have a strong incentive to keep rents the same. For example:
For a unit in the CBD rented for $750 per week with a rates bill of $1,500 per year, the owner would make an extra $2,600/yr by raising the rent $50/wk, but would pay an extra $9,750 in rates.
For a detached house in Coorparoo, rented for $850 per week with a rates bill of $3,000 per year, the owner would make an extra $5,200/yr by raising the rent $100/wk, but would pay an extra $19,500 in rates.
In both examples above, any sensible property investor would keep rents the same, and keep paying their normal rates bill.
How much extra revenue will it raise?
Close to zero. The Greens do not expect any significant extra rates revenue from this plan, because we expect that investors will simply keep rents froze. Its purpose is to protect renters and give Brisbane residents some breathing space, not raise revenue.
Any sensible property investor would not raise the rent, because doing so would cost them money.
Enforcing the rent freeze
Rates would initially stay the same for all rental homes in Brisbane. Council would create a new rates category, ‘Uncapped rental home’ with a much higher rates amount - set at 750% of current rates.
Any property investor or real estate agent who asks for or imposes a rent increase above the rent charged on 1 January 2023 would be required to notify Council.
Those properties would then be reclassified into the new ‘Uncapped rental home’ rating category. The property would incur the higher rates bill every quarter until the rent is decreased.
Just like other government charges, property investors would have a legal obligation to inform Council if their property was liable for the higher rates bill. They would face heavy fines for failing to disclose this information.
Tenants, real estate agents and members of the public would be able to report any investor seeking to avoid their legal obligations.
Renters are still in a vulnerable position, since the State Labor government has so far failed to abolish “no grounds” evictions at the end of a fixed term lease. The Greens will continue pushing for that reform, but a Council rent freeze will still deliver some relief.
Brissie rents are out of control
Renters know that by any measure, rents in Brisbane have skyrocketed
- Asking rents in Brisbane have jumped 45% since the start of 2021. (1)
- Rents for new tenancies have jumped 24% in the same period. (2)
- Rents for all tenancies (CPI rents) have jumped by 17% in the same period. (3)
Recent forecasts show more pain is on the way. CBRE predicts that Brisbane apartment rents will jump another 30% by 2028, faster than any other city. (4)
State and Federal rental plans
The Greens have also been fighting for the Queensland and Federal Governments to stop passing the buck and take greater action on the housing crisis. That’s why we’re proposing strong policies at the Council level too – because all governments have a part to play in fixing our cooked housing system.
The Australian Greens and the Queensland Greens are both fighting for a national rent freeze, implemented by State and Territory governments. The Greens plan would also give tenants a presumed right to a longer lease; minimum standards that respond to a changing climate; and a genuine ban on “no-grounds” evictions.
Building more affordable homes
The Greens support a massive build of public and affordable housing at all levels of government.
Just this year the Australian Greens pressure put renters on the national political agenda and were able to secure $3 billion in direct funding for public and affordable housing.
The Greens campaign for Brisbane City Council has already released a proposal for public feedback to build 4,000 publicly-owned, rent-capped apartments on the site of the Eagle Farm Racecourse.
Freeing up more rental homes
The Greens campaign for Brisbane City Council has already announced two other initiatives for Brisbane City Council to free up more rental homes:
- A vacancy levy to release thousands of existing homes onto the rental and sales markets, also applying to empty shops and vacant land.
- A crackdown on AirBnB including a ban on entire dwellings being used as short-term accommodation for more than 45 days per year.
(1) SQM data shows combined house/unit asking rents in Jan 2021 were $435 vs $635 in October 2023
(2) RTA Quarterly median rent data, accessed October 2023
(3) ABS CPI Sept qtr 2023, accessed October 2023
(4) CBRE 25 October 2023