In response to skyrocketing rents, the Greens have unveiled a bold plan for a two-year rent freeze in Brisbane to provide relief to struggling renters. The announcement made today by Gabba Ward Councillor Trina Massey and Greens’ Mayoral hopeful Jonathan Sriranganathan comes as the city faces a rental crisis, with asking rents surging by a staggering 45 per cent since 2021, a burden that the Greens say is pushing residents to the brink.

The rental affordability crisis, the Greens say, has left many Brisbane residents skipping meals, facing eviction, and being forced out of their communities due to the inaction of successive Labor and LNP governments in addressing runaway rents. Recent forecasts have also predicted that real rents could soar by an additional 30 per cent for apartments by 2028, making Brisbane the epicentre of rent increases across Australia.

Key elements of the Greens’ plan include:

  1. Two-Year Rent Freeze: The Greens intend to halt rent increases for two years, allowing renters to regain their financial footing.
  2. Higher Rates for Offenders: To enforce the rent freeze, property investors who violate the freeze by raising rents above January 2023 levels will face significantly higher property rates.
  3. Home-Based Freeze: Instead of tying the rent freeze to individual tenancies, the Greens’ plan links the freeze to each residential property. This ensures that renters continue to benefit from the freeze, even if they move house.
  4. Strong Legal Protections: The Greens also advocate for robust legal protections for renters at a state level, which includes legislated rent caps, ending “no grounds” evictions, setting stronger minimum standards, and banning rent bidding.
  5. Comprehensive Housing Justice Platform: The rent freeze proposal is part of the broader Greens Housing Justice platform, which includes measures like a vacancy levy, a 45-night annual limit on Airbnb rentals, and the creation of 4,000 publicly owned rent-capped homes at Eagle Farm Racecourse.

“Rents in Brissie have gone bloody bonkers, and they’ll get a lot worse unless we act. Residents in the Gabba Ward and all over Brisbane are uprooting their lives, disconnecting from their communities, having kids move from their schools and friends, just because LNP and Labor politicians won’t stand up to rich investors,” said Trina Massey, Greens Councillor for the Gabba Ward and a lifelong renter.

“I’ve paid rent every week of my adult life, so I know the stress and worry a huge rent hike can bring.”

The Queensland Government has recently introduced new legislation restricting landlords from increasing rent more than once a year. Despite this change, Cr Massey said rental rates are still on the rise.

We know that policy has failed.”

Sriranganathan underscored the critical choice facing residents in the upcoming council election.

“If you’re struggling to pay the rent, worried about skipping meals or having to move house, you have a clear choice this council election: Labor and the LNP seem happy for rents to keep rising, while the Greens will take practical steps to make rents cheaper.”

Sriranganathan issued a stark message to landlords, saying, “Our message to landlords is pretty straightforward: If you put up the rent, we’ll put up your rates.” He stressed the urgency of ending unlimited rent increases that are causing suffering and disruption in communities.

Sriranganathan said today that part of the reason that house prices and unit prices are so expensive at the moment is that landlords who invest have more borrowing power than first home buyers.

“Every time an investor tries to buy another investment property that puts up house prices. So, if we can discourage investors from investing in housing and instead put that money into small business and other sectors of the economy, that’ll put downward pressure on house prices, and mean that more first-time buyers will have a decent shot at buying their own home.”

Max Chandler-Mather, federal MP for Griffith and Australian Greens spokesperson for housing and homelessness, has highlighted the financial burden on renters in Queensland, noting that “A freeze on rental increases could save each Queensland renter household $2,286 this year alone – that’s food on the table or a desperately needed trip to the dentist.” He criticized the LNP Council for prioritising property developers’ profits over the welfare of those in dire housing situations.

Chandler-Mather has faced criticism for his rent freeze push with commentators arguing the overseas studies he relies on do not support his claims.

Brendan Coates, Economic Policy Program director at the Grattan Institute, has said a cap on rents would “blunt the incentive to build more housing, leaving us with fewer, poorer-quality dwellings.”

Sriranganathan responds to critics, saying they’re “picking and choosing specific cases that don’t match our plan in Brisbane.”

“It’s important to remember that there are dozens of countries with long-running, popular rent control schemes, so we should weigh that against the one or two studies from San Francisco or New York that Coates is referencing. Even the ACT has a system of rent controls, and I see no evidence that this has led to Canberra having significantly higher rents than other Australian cities.”

“Our rent control applies to all properties in Brisbane, not just existing tenancies, so there’s no incentive to evict tenants.”

“Claims that “the cap would blunt the incentive to build more housing, leaving us with fewer, poorer-quality dwellings” don’t stack up to close scrutiny.

Sriranganathan argues that if earnings decrease or expenses increase, some developers may back out.

Our vacancy levy proposal helps address this, because it would push up the holding costs of vacant land, encouraging people to sell or develop rather than land-banking indefinitely.”

The Labor Mayoral Candidate, Tracy Price has called the Greens proposal, a complicated and extreme idea “that will not deal with the real issue of housing supply that Brisbane renters need.”

“It appears that the Greens are anti any investment in build to rent or new development.”

“This is an extreme policy that will reduce investment in housing across Brisbane and will make our long term housing problem thanks to the poor planning of this 20 year LNP Council even worse,” Ms Price said in a statement today.

Ms Price talked about her housing policy with Spencer Howson on 4BC in October.

Ms Price, announced several initiatives last week to address homelessness, including increasing the Pathways out of Homelessness Grants from $1 million to $5 million annually, doubling the staff in the Public Liaison Space team to aid those at risk of homelessness, supporting crisis accommodation and homelessness service providers, and boosting funding for Homeless Connect to enhance outreach and essential services for vulnerable community members. Ms Price says these measures aim to improve support for homeless individuals and those at risk of homelessness while addressing inadequacies in the current system.

As the council election approaches and the cost of living crisis continues, housing policies will be a central focus of the campaign.

Cover image by Jan Bowman