Advocacy body Tenants Victoria has expressed disappointment with the 15% increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance, stating that it falls short of their call for a 50% rise.

The organisation says the rental housing crisis requires more ambitious solutions from the government.

Despite being one of the wealthiest countries globally, many Australians are forced to choose between paying rent and having enough food to eat each week.

The situation has contributed to worsening homelessness rates in Victoria, mainly due to record low vacancy rates in the private rental market, where most tenants reside.

In a statement issued on 10 May, CEO Jennifer Beveridge of Tenants Victoria acknowledged some relief measures announced in the 2023-24 Federal Budget but emphasised the need for bolder action to address the current challenges.

‘We share the recurring heartbreak of many across the community, from economists and financial counsellors to youth workers, that the opportunity to substantially raise Jobseeker and Youth Allowance payments for all people who are unemployed has been missed. A $2.85 a day increase is inadequate,” she said.

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While Beveridge said the announced 15% increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance, the subsidy provided to individuals receiving Centrelink payments and not residing in rent-stabilised public housing, was appreciated, Tenants Victoria had advocated for a more significant expansion in eligibility and a minimum 50% boost in the rent supplement.

Tenants Victoria welcomed the budget changes that allow single parents to retain extra income-support payments until their youngest child turns 14, extending the previous cut-off age of 8 years.

“The reality for today’s renters,” Ms Beveridge said, “is that for many people renting is a permanent situation rather than a transition from the family home to home ownership – and governments at every level must respond urgently to these new demographics.”

Amid the rental crisis, Tenants Victoria has observed an increase in eviction cases due to rent arrears and the sale of rental properties.

As a result, renters face a significant risk of homelessness, exacerbated by the scarcity of affordable housing options and long waiting times for access to public or community housing.

Tenants Victoria said addressing the rental housing crisis required a multi-faceted approach involving all levels of government.

Suggestions ranged from sustained investments in social housing to strengthening renters’ rights through the National Cabinet process.

“Whilst there is no single silver bullet solution for the rental housing crisis, more ambition is needed by all tiers of government, ranging from sustained investments in more social housing to strengthening renters’ rights through the National Cabinet process,” the statement read.