Chapter 1 - Introduction

Chapter 1Introduction

We need to decide what kind of country and society we want to be … whether the average person can expect a first world existence here. In this context that means being able to afford somewhere to live, or being able to access reasonable, safe, functioning services if you don’t have anywhere to live. You need to not be living in fear of power of real estate agents, and landlords, where there are functioning checks and balances. And most importantly, without the terror of eviction and homelessness constantly in the background of your mind, so people can thrive.[1]

1.1Australia is in the midst of a rental crisis. Over the course of the inquiry, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee (the committee) heard powerful accounts from renters who shared their struggles of securing and maintaining adequate housing that meets their needs. First and foremost, this is not a discussion about bricks and mortar: this is a human crisis.

1.2Housing is a fundamental human right.[2] Yet, across Australia today, experiences of housing insecurity and precarity abound. Too many people are struggling to meet rising costs of rent; paying too much for properties that are in disrepair; and living with the constant fear of eviction and homelessness, unable to plan for the future or put down roots in local communities.

1.3The current crisis is the confluence of various complex factors, some of which have arisen recently and rapidly, while others have compounded over many years, if not decades. These include an extremely tight private rental market, with vacancy rates at record lows;[3] the rising cost of living; increasing interest rates; low construction rates for new housing; and chronic underinvestment by successive governments in social and affordable housing.

1.4Although the states and territories are responsible for most of the key policy levers directly influencing housing provision, responses to the rental crisis require the coordination and collaboration of all tiers of government. Housing providers and agents—including private property investors and public and community housing providers—also play an important role in addressing the rental crisis.

1.5Addressing the crisis will require a multi-pronged approach. Building more housing and improving the use of existing stock—both social housing and private housing—is a vital ongoing project to tackle the supply issues at the centre of the crisis. Financial relief for renters, decisive action to strengthen rental rights and rental controls are also measures that could be employed to curb housing insecurity and homelessness.

1.6This final report will explore a range of potential measures to address the rental crisis that are informed by the needs and views of all stakeholders and the experience of overseas jurisdictions.

Interim report

1.7The committee’s interim report focused on the direct and contemporary experience of renters to uncover the profound financial, physical, mental and emotional toll of the rental crisis on people’s lives.[4]The evidence revealed that the impacts of this crisis disproportionately harm vulnerable members of society who already experience intersectional disadvantage, such as income support recipients, young people, First Nations peoples and people with disability.

1.8Theinterim report also explored some of the drivers of the rental crisis, including high demand for rental housing, inadequate supply of rental housing, and the power imbalance between landlords and tenants under residential tenancies legislation.

1.9The committee produced the interim report to assist the deliberations of the National Cabinet on renters' rights. Before the tabling of the interim report, National Cabinet agreed on ‘ABetter Deal for Renters’.[5]

1.10The interim report made two recommendations for Australian Government action—first, to take a coordinating role to implement stronger rental rights, and second, to continue investment in public, social, community and genuinely affordable housing.[6]

Structure and scope of final report

1.11This report consists of five chapters:

Chapter 1 (this chapter) recaps the findings of the interim report and the context of the inquiry and outlines the scope of the final report.

Chapter 2 examines measures to boost the supply of social and affordable rental housing.

Chapter 3 explores measures to provide immediate financial relief to renters experiencing rental stress.

Chapter 4 explores issues outlined in ‘A Better Deal for Renters’ that arise at the beginning and the end of the rental life cycle.

Chapter 5 explores the remaining issues outlined in ‘A Better Deal for Renters’ and ends with concluding comments.[7]

1.12This report is structured around three themes: increasing housing stock; rental affordability; and the strengthening and protection of renters’ rights.

1.13Chapter 2 addresses ways to increase housing stock and make better use of existing supply. This will be examined primarily through the lens of the recently legislated Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) and other government commitments, including the Social Housing Accelerator. The chapter will discuss stakeholders’ views on the HAFF and measures needed to supplement the HAFF, including in relation to the build-to-rent sector, private investment, coordination between different levels of government and regulation of short-term rental accommodation.

1.14Chapter 3 examines the pressing issue of rental affordability, looking at immediate ways to support renters in a time of extreme rent increases. These include Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA), income support payments and rent controls.

1.15Finally, Chapters 4 and 5 discuss the strengthening and protection of tenants’ rights, explored through the lens of National Cabinet’s August 2023 decision on ‘A Better Deal for Renters’. Chapter 4 addresses issues that arise at the beginning and end of the rental life cycle: rent bidding, rental applications, break lease fees and no grounds evictions. Chapter 5 addresses the remaining issues outlined in ‘A Better Deal for Renters’—minimum accommodation standards, the rights of victim-survivors of family and domestic violence, and enforcement and appeals mechanisms—as well as the rights of renters in less common tenancy types that are not covered by ‘A Better Deal for Renters’. Chapter 5 ends with concluding comments from the committee.

Referral and conduct of the inquiry

1.16On 22 June 2023 the Senate referred an inquiry into the worsening rental crisis in Australia to the committee for inquiry and report, with an interim report to be presented by 23 September 2023 to aid in the deliberations of the National Cabinet on renters' rights, and a final report to be presented by 28 November 2023.[8] The committee’s interim report was tabled on 21September 2023. The reporting date for the final report was subsequently extended to 5 December 2023.

1.17As noted in the committee’s interim report, details of the inquiry were published on the committee’s website and the committee invited a number of organisations and individuals to lodge submissions.

1.18410 submissions have been published on the committee’s website, along with a range of additional information and answers to questions on notice. All published evidence is listed at Appendix3 of this report. A further 16,061 submissions were received through simplified submission forms, demonstrating the high level of public interest and engagement in the inquiry.

1.19The committee held four public hearings:

23 August 2023—Brisbane, Queensland;

24 August 2023—Sydney, New South Wales;

30 August 2023—Canberra, Australian Capital Territory; and

27 September 2023—Melbourne, Victoria.

1.20A list of witnesses who gave evidence at the hearings is available at Appendix4.

1.21The committee acknowledges the significant contribution of the people who shared their experiences with the committee through over 16,000 simplified submissions.

Previous inquiries

1.22The committee notes the contribution made by a number of past Parliamentary inquiries in the housing field, including for example:

Senate Economics Legislation Committee, Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 [Provisions] and related Bills, March 2023;

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue, TheAustralian Dream, 2022;

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, Inquiry into homelessness in Australia—Final Report, July 2021; and

Senate Economics References Committee, Out of Reach? The Australian Housing Affordability Challenge, 2015.


1.23The committee again thanks all those who contributed to the inquiry by making submissions, providing additional information and appearing at public hearings.

1.24The committee particularly acknowledges the individuals who shared their lived experience of rental issues, whether as renters or as property owners, and whether through written submission or at public hearings. The committee appreciates the courage and generosity displayed in making such contributions. Asnoted in the interim report, lived experience stories have greatly aided the committee’s understanding of the extent, nature and impact of the rental crisis.

Note on references

1.25In this report, references to Committee Hansard are to proof transcripts. Page numbers may vary between proof and official transcripts.

Note on definitions

1.26Definitions of some key terms used in this report appear in the ‘Note on definitions’ at Appendix 1, as extracted from Chapter1 of the committee’s interim report.[9] Such terms may be used differently or more loosely by submitters and witnesses.


[1]Name Withheld, Submission 352, [p. 5].

[2]Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Paris, 10 December 1948 (Article 25.1: ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services …’); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16 December 1966, entry into force for Australia 10 March 1976 [1976]ATS5 (Article11.1: ‘The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right …’).

[3]See, for example, Anglicare WA, Submission 3, [p. 7]; City of Adelaide, Submission 27, Attachment 1, p. 4; Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), Submission 33, p. 1; Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ), Submission 38, p. 4.

[4]Senate Community Affairs References Committee, The worsening rental crisis in Australia—InterimReport, September 2023 (Interim report).

[5]The Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister of Australia, ‘Meeting of National Cabinet—Working together to deliver better housing outcomes’, Media Release, 16 August 2023, Attachment2.

[6]See Interim report, pp. xiii, 55 and 77.

[7]Although the regulation of short-stay residential accommodation is mentioned in ‘A Better Deal for Renters’, this issue will be explored in Chapter 2 as it relates to the supply of rental housing. The restriction of rent increases is also mentioned in ‘A Better Deal for Renters’ but will be discussed in Chapter 3 as it relates to rental affordability issues.

[8]Journals of the Senate, No. 56, 22 June 2023, pp. 1598–1599.

[9]See Interim report, pp. 3–5.