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Byron Shire
November 30, 2022

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: High Rent Low Life

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Let’s create a culture of long long leases.

One third of all Australians rent their homes. But when it comes to protecting their rights, they’re ignored. There is not much political will around strengthening and improving tenancy rights. The latest census data reveals that there is a trend towards rentals. So why, when we talk about the need for housing, do we continue to focus on home ownership as the sole solution?

With soaring building costs, huge pressure and delays in the construction industry, combined with the long wait for council approvals, new housing is, at the very least, years away. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight for more social and affordable housing – because we need a strong bipartisan 20-year vision to create a future with safe and secure housing. But housing should not be an election platform. It shouldn’t be an empty promise – it should be a guarantee. It should be a shared goal for everyone in government.  

It makes sense. Without housing for everyone, the capitalist model falls in a heap. You can’t run a business if you don’t have staff. Kitchens are closing around our region because they haven’t got enough warm bodies to run them. Business is failing, not because of lack of opportunity for business, but because lack of staffing has destroyed their capacity. Safe and secure housing for everyone means people can live where they work. It means they can build a life in their community; that they can put down roots, build friendships, send their kids to the local school, volunteer for local organisations, you know – be part of the local commmunity. If you don’t have housing then you will struggle to belong. You will also struggle to stay physically and mentally well. 

We know housing is a social determinant of health. Research shows there is an association between poor-quality housing and housing stress and poor physical and mental health. When we have access to housing the need for increased funding in down stream services is reduced. You don’t save money by not investing in housing. The cost will always be picked up somewhere else in the system. We have seen, in communities around the country, that rampant profiteering in the housing market has a human cost. 

So what if we radically changed the way we viewed housing? What if the government incentivised housing investors to give proper long-term leases? And by that, I don’t mean 12 months, I mean 20 years. What if we celebrated good landlords? We could start by changing the word landowner; might be a good start. And when you lease, you become a caretaker not a renter. The language that describes the relationship tells you all about the ingrained nature of the power dynamic. It tells you who is being screwed.

We could have more housing right now. At the last census there were more than one million houses sitting vacant. Even if you account for people being on holidays, staying with relatives or friends, that’s a massive number. In the face of climate change, when resources must be used sparingly, why are we pushing to build more housing when the housing is already here?  

Let’s create a culture of long long leases. Where families can birth children, send them to school and have them grow to adulthood all under the roof of  the same home. Let’s not wait for government. Let’s start our own occupy movement. But instead of buildings, let’s occupy the empty houses that lay fallow in the vast investment paddocks of faceless investment portfolios.

Let’s turn high rent low life, to low rent high life. 

Let’s do it.


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6 COMMENTS

  1. Great topic so urgent so much housing stress.

    A possible reason house owners are reluctant to rent out their house or a room is because if you have a tenant who decides to stop paying the rent even in the absence of financial hardship or in Victoria I am told if a tenant decides a great Dane dog is moving in ( even if you suffer dog allergies or dislike the smell of dogshit ) the tenancy laws are such that you can not evict them even on reasonable grounds with due notice.

    2 sides to every coin, only when we can understand the proper reasons for things can proper solutions be found

  2. Mandy’s hit the ‘nail’ on the head. Over one million houses! Ha… investment’s second name game can become the needed answer.

  3. Sujay – So many people with a ‘lease’ treat the house & situation badly. This proposition is different. You become a caretaker over
    a set number of years. There would be legal agreements on either side protecting both. It can work because it should.

  4. well spoken mandy! in the bizzare world of financial capitalism in which we now exist real estate has become a major part of that scenario.
    we need a completely fresh approach separate from investment which puts people first and is affordable according to means.
    good design, appropriate scale, a new model for subdivision layout, subsidised construction leading to rent-based on cost is all possible.
    we simply need the will. this, as you have suggested, leads to a community based model which allows people to live and work far closer to home. scaled businesses inevitably become established to service the community. we have lived in such a way for a very long time. in large measure we have forgotten many basics which bring us together and sustain us. simple things keep us in balance.
    thank you for the article mandy.

  5. Yes, Srev. It’s about time we started to treat one another like family. The Ill-gotten morons can go fleece themselves.

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