A view from directly above a residential suburb of Melbourne, in Victoria State, Australia.

New data from Australia’s no. 1 website dedicated to rental property, Rent.com.au, has revealed what’s on the minds of renters ahead of the 2019 Federal Election.

Key Highlights:

  • One in three Australians rents their home (over 7 million renters).
  • Two thirds don’t know who they will vote for: 41% said they had no idea and 28% remain on the fence.
  • 80% of renters felt their needs have not been acknowledged by major political parties.
  • Affordability remains a key issue, the “practical renter” is the fastest growing segment.

The March election survey conducted by Rent.com.au looked at perceptions of attitudes towards renting, sentiment around politics and voting intentions.

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Political indecision: Majority of renters don’t know who to vote for

Results from the March election survey indicated that a significant group of Australia’s renters are generally undecided voters, indicating the opportunity available to the various parties if they can clearly articulate their policies.  “Having nearly 70% of our renting population unsure of who to vote for was a surprise to me,” said Rent.com.au CEO Greg Bader, “Maybe it shouldn’t have been, given the recent, relatively unstable nature of federal politics”.

“We have all major parties talking about their potential changes (or lack of changes) to some of the core elements that promote investment in properties such as Capital Gains Tax and Negative Gearing, yet they do not seem to be able to articulate clearly how this will affect renters: will there be more choice; will prices go up or down? These are the things that the renting (and wider) population would like to know”.

“Given that one-third of the population rents, the responses to this question go broader than renting issues and show that the various political parties still have an opportunity to make a significant difference in the upcoming election. Especially given the number of marginal seats and the rise of independent candidates in our political system,” said Mr Bader.

“To me the message is very clear, renting voters want politicians to be more open and honest with them by explaining their policies (and the reasons) clearly. Renters know that both State and Federal Governments have the power to change policies and legislation that will have significant and lasting impacts on their lifestyle, so for our Federal politicians – speak clearly please.

“One of the real structural issues in our market (and somewhat unique in the world) is that most of our renting stock is held by private investors with one or two properties – i.e. “mums and dads” whereas other markets have managed to create environments with a diversity of stock. So we would encourage the Federal government, from whichever side of politics, to keep pushing through changes to encourage the “build to rent” industry”.

The perception is that things aren’t getting better for renters

Asked about change in the political climate for renters since the last election back in 2016, responses were concrete; 83% reported that they felt no improvement in the renters’ lot.

“We (as an industry and as a community) need to understand that one in three of us rents and that proportion is growing”, Mr Bader said. “What tenants want is a place to live – a home – and the ability to treat that property as their home. Lease security and flexible lease durations are all major issues that renters face.”

Affordability still an issue, but a growing market wants to rent

Rent.com.au CEO Greg Bader said: “While we’ve recently seen an increase in the amount of people choosing to rent for lifestyle purposes (the ‘practical renter’), our survey found that affordability was still a significant driver.”

“The renting demographic in this country is on the rise and pretty consistent with global trends. Australia’s 7 million renters make up a significant proportion – around 30% of the total population and this number is steadily increasing. It’s a growing market, and one in need of advocacy and recognition.”

“We know from our research and work with our customer base that yes, affordability is still an important factor for many (especially the last few years in Sydney and Melbourne, and more recently in Hobart). We are also seeing that people enjoy the flexibility (lifestyle, location) that renting can offer – in fact, about 25% of our customers indicate they currently own an investment property but live elsewhere (rentvestors) or are currently saving to purchase a property they don’t intend to live in”

About the March Rent.com.au Survey
The Rent.com.au ‘What matters to you?’ 2019 Federal Election Survey was conducted between March 1 and 12, 2019. The results were drawn from a sample size of 1,051 respondents across Australia Responses were weighted to the current population by age bracket.

“In Australia, we’re starting to see increased momentum in the vocalisation of renters’ needs. This has undoubtedly been caused by factors like housing affordability issues, job mobility, lifestyle and investment preferences,” he said.

“In our own business, we’ve seen huge growth in the number of renters (more than half a million) who have gone to great lengths to stand out by creating a Renter Resume on rent.com.au, so there’s a real need there to ensure this important demographic is heard. Political parties ignore renters at their peril.”