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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Tamsin Rose and Michael McGowan

More than half of NSW MPs own more than one property

The Sydney city skyline is seen from the suburb of Balmain
Of the 93 MPs in the NSW legislative assembly, 54% own more than one property, with more than a quarter listing three or more. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

More than half of MPs in the New South Wales lower house own multiple residential properties, prompting concerns the state’s politicians are “blind” to record increases in rental prices.

Amid a fresh push for reform to the rental market, an analysis of MP disclosure records show landlords are disproportionately represented on Macquarie Street.

Of the 93 MPs in the legislative assembly, 54% own more than one property, with more than a quarter listing three or more.

In contrast, just 12% of NSW residents are property investors, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data. All lower house MPs own at least one property, either personally or through their spouse.

It has prompted accusations the state’s political class may be “biased” when it comes to tackling a rental crisis that has seen prices increase by 14% in the past 12 months.

Australia Institute senior economist Matt Grudnoff said the parliament should be truly representational if it did not want to continue failing renters.

“It is property investors who get all the goodies – all the best tax concessions – because they’re the people who are making the laws,” Grudnoff said.

This comes as Greens MP Jenny Leong this week introduced a bill to ban no-grounds evictions in the state.

The bill would stop landlords evicting tenants unless they fit certain criteria including renovating the property, or if close family or friends wanted to live in the property for at least a year.

Labor, which notionally supports an end to no-grounds evictions but is yet to show its hand on the Greens bill, is also under pressure to beef up its own rental policies.

Ahead of the party’s state conference this weekend the Inner West mayor, Darcy Byrne, a member of the left faction, called on Labor to give members “a policy agenda they can be proud of”.

Byrne will call for longer tenancy periods of between five and 10 years, new government oversight of complaints about repairs and maintenance and new rules allowing renters to have pets.

He also wanted the party to consider a tax on empty properties.

Byrne said that after “12 years in the wilderness”, Labor should work to create a fairer system for renters.

“By taking up the cause of renters, NSW Labor can excite and energise our supporters and demonstrate how we will put our social justice principles into practice if elected,” he said.

The opposition’s spokesperson for better regulation, Courtney Houssos, said there would be a “comprehensive policy” before the election.

Labor has been under fire over its opposition to the government’s plan to give first home buyers the choice between paying land tax or stamp duty on properties bought for up to $1.5m.

The party opposes it in part because it would see investors paying land tax charged at a higher rate than owner-occupiers. According to the shadow treasurer, Daniel Mookhey, that would see rents increase as landlords look to recoup costs.

Those concerns have been dismissed by experts, including Grudnoff, who said it was “complete and total nonsense”.

“If you have a policy that discourages people from investing in houses … then more people who are owner occupiers will buy houses and the number of renters will go down at the same rate as the number of rental properties,” he said.

“It doesn’t have any real impact on the rental price.”

Leo Patterson-Ross, the head of the NSW Tenants Union, said the rising rents were being driven by a variety of market factors.

“The data doesn’t support the idea that rents are set by landlord costs,” he said.

“If they did, negative gearing wouldn’t exist. Its very existence shows their costs are often higher than the rent they receive.”

A longtime advocate for tenants rights in NSW, Patterson-Ross said he believed it was possible MPs were “biased” when it came to rental issues.

“It’s clear [that owning properties] can influence their decision making,” he said.

Together, 45 Coalition MPs own 82 properties, averaging 1.8 per person. This is slightly higher than the Labor average of 1.7 properties per MP.

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