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Rental Nation: A plan for secure housing in Australia

Shelter is not only a basic physical need, and where we rejuvenate as individuals, but it is where society nurtures our young and where we care for our elderly. Whether housing is affordable and secure has a profound impact on our social, economic, physical, and mental health.

Australia has a problem with the lack of security it provides for those of us who rent. As more people rent, and rent for longer, this problem must be acknowledged and addressed. Some will rent as a matter of preference, but others will rent because they cannot afford to enter a housing market that is marching away from lower paid Australians in less secure jobs.

In 2017, the Fair Work Commission described retail (and hospitality) workers as “more likely to be female, younger (under 25 years), work part-time hours, be employed on a casual basis and be award reliant than employees in other industries. Employees in these industries are also more likely to be low paid”.

Housing security and the rights of those who rent is becoming a critical issue for retail workers and it is why the SDA commissioned this research from the John Curtin Research Centre. It is in the best interests of retail workers that the debate around housing security, and the need for greater security for those who rent, is advanced through a more equitable frame.

The rights of those who rent in Australia have not kept pace with the structural shift towards renting that has occurred in recent decades. We should not view renting as some precarious waiting room for home ownership. Whether an individual or family rents out of choice or necessity they are entitled to a sense of security in that housing arrangement.

We must develop policy that provides a sufficient supply of good quality housing to meet the needs of every Australian whether they rent or own property. This research paper is a significant contribution to the debate that must now take place in the development of such policy.

Housing is a nation building project and every Australian has a vested interest in ensuring it is provided on secure and affordable terms.

Gerard Dwyer
National Secretary
Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA)