Pressure is mounting on the Greens to support Labor’s housing fund after the party’s calls for state governments to impose rent freezes and increase caps were roundly rejected by east coast leaders.
The Greens have come under pressure from the Albanese government and Labor states after voting with the Coalition on Monday to delay the $10bn housing Australia future fund until 16 October.
Despite Anthony Albanese offering an extra $2bn of direct spending on social and affordable housing over the weekend, the Greens have vowed to continue pursuing a rent freeze or rent caps, delaying legislation until national cabinet considers the prime minister’s request to consider improving renters’ rights.
With the Greens facing threats that delaying the bill could create a trigger a double dissolution election, Albanese continued to pile pressure on in question time on Wednesday.
The prime minister quoted at length from Max Chandler-Mather’s essay in Jacobin magazine, in which the Greens housing spokesperson described the bill as “the only immediate leverage” the Greens had to force action on rents.
Earlier on Wednesday, the New South Wales premier, Chris Minns, repeated the position he has held since before the March election, flatly refusing to consider freezing rents across the state.
“If the NSW government announced a rental freeze in the next fortnight, [property owners] would immediately increase rents,” he said.
“I don’t want to see the unanticipated consequences of well-meaning legislation, meaning renters have to pay more.
Max Chandler-Mather said: “There is $610 million of direct federal funding for social housing that NSW is getting right now because of the Greens.
"The Greens are now pushing to pass a housing plan in October that will lock in more direct funding for social housing and coordinate national limits on rent increases that will protect NSW renters from further devastating rent hikes.
"Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund doesn’t guarantee a cent of funding until 2024/25 and won’t build a single home until 2025, and so of course the Greens are fighting for more direct funding for public housing now and nationally coordinated limits on rent increases.
NSW’s better regulation minister, Anoulack Chanthivong, echoed his leader’s concerns.
“Any solution that sounds too good to be true, probably is,” he said.
“With thousands of renters under extreme pressure, now isn’t the time for political games and point scoring. Our focus is on getting the balance right with responsible reforms that deliver better rights for renters and changes to get new homes built to drive down prices.”
The NSW Greens have also been pushing for a rent freeze amid soaring costs in parts of Sydney and regional areas.
When asked if she supported the idea of caps or freezes, Queensland’s housing minister, Meaghan Scanlon, said the Greens needed to get out of the way of the federal government’s plan.
“We’re committed to ensuring that the private rental market operates in a fair and balanced way,” she said.
“What the Greens political party need to do to ease national housing pressures is stop blocking legislation that will build 30,000 homes.”
The only state government to show any consideration of the rental caps proposed by the Greens was Victoria, where the treasurer, Tim Pallas, said people were doing it tough after ruling out a freeze as a “distortion of the market”.
“I do think there has to be a point at which the community says this has gone beyond reason … some of the poorest people are being encumbered with costs,” he said.
“One in three Victorians rent and they do need and deserve support.”
The government has flagged there were more housing reforms slated for later in the year.