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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Eden Gillespie

Queensland housing minister urges compassion after ‘appalling’ call to raise rents by 20%

Traditional Queenslander houses in Brisbane
Queensland tenants’ advocates have called for rent rises to be capped at the rate of inflation. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

Queensland’s housing minister says it’s “appalling” that landlords have been advised to raise rents amid a rental crisis after a Brisbane real estate agent encouraged increases of more than 20%.

Leeanne Enoch’s comments come after Guardian Australia reported that Ray White West End had sent an email to landlords urging them to increase rents by more than double the inflation rate.

“It is appalling to see a handful of real estate agencies issuing substantial rent increases amid unprecedented pressures on the entire housing system,” Enoch said.

“I would strongly urge compassion on the part of real estate agents and property owners as we come together at the Queensland housing summit to discuss actions to alleviate pressures on the market,” she said.

The state’s emergency housing summit on Thursday will include a wide range of peak industry bodies, non-government providers and private sector stakeholders to explore all possible solutions, Enoch said.

Fiona Caniglia, executive director at Q Shelter, said it was hard to understand the rationale of a real estate agency urging such a “steep increase”.

“We appreciate that landlords need to cover their costs and rent their investment proprieties to make a modest profit, but making the case for a 20% increase, purely on the basis that the market is tight and people will simply just accept it, is disturbing,” she said.

Without “significant intervention” by the state government, the housing market will only worsen by 2032, when Brisbane hosts the Olympics, Caniglia said.

Tenants Queensland’s chief executive, Penny Carr, said housing across the state is at a crisis point.

“Queensland rents have gone up by an average of $104 per week in the last year. That’s three times the rate of inflation,” Carr said.

“It is not fair, and it is unsustainable. We’re calling for rent rises to be restricted to once per annum and for the consumer price index to be used as a guide for reasonable rent increase.”

Low-income households are spending more than 50% of their income on housing costs, according to the Town of Nowhere campaign.

The Queensland Council of Social Service chief executive, Aimee McVeigh, said the summit must focus on the needs of the most vulnerable by providing more social and affordable housing.

“This summit must commit to every Queenslander having a roof over their head by 2032, and 5,000 social homes being built every year for the next decade,” she said.

The Real Estate Institute of Queensland chief executive, Antonia Mercorella, said rental listings have dropped 61.5% across Brisbane since the start of the pandemic, putting extreme pressure on supply.

“There’s no doubt that market forces, over the past two years, have been extraordinary for a range of reasons and have had a significant impact on rent prices, resulting in a tough market for tenants,” Mercorella said.

Mercorella saidstatutory safeguards were in place to ensure “tenants are protected against arbitrary rent increases and rent bidding.”

“Using CPI to restrict rent increases is not a fair formula to keep the market balanced,” she said.

“It disregards the rise in expenses experienced by property owners which are not aligned to CPI, such as mortgage repayments and rates, repairs and maintenance expenses and insurance payments.”

The principal realtor at Ray White West End, Luke O’Kelly, said on Sunday that rental affordability “will worsen if investors lose confidence in the Brisbane housing market”.

The opposition’s housing spokesperson, Tim Mander, said renters “should not blame their landlords … or real estate agents” for rent increases, saying they were a consequence of the lack of available housing.

“We need more social housing, affordable housing, we need more houses for those people that want to buy their first home,” he said.

But the Greens MP for South Brisbane, Amy MacMahon, said the “price-gouging” by the real-estate sector demonstrates why a rent freeze is needed.

“Emails like this make it damn clear that the massive rent hikes we’ve seen over the last year aren’t all about covering costs for property investors. Rents have risen at more than three times the rate of inflation,” MacMahon said.

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