Updated: Jul 20, 2022
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticised for his recent suggestion that the best way to support renting a house is to help them buy a house.
"The Best way to Support People Renting a House is to Help Them Buy a House"
The prime minister made the comment on Channel Nine’s Today show on the morning of Wednesday the 30th of March, 2022. After being asked why there was not more support for renters in the recently handed down federal budget, Mr. Morrison responded that “This is about Australians getting into homes. [The] best way to support people who are renting a house is to help them buy a house.”
The gap between renters and home-owners has widened in recent years, with the proportion of Australians living in rented properties having grown as the proportion of people who own a home or live in social housing has fallen.
Housing Experts Criticise Scott Morrison's Response
The incident has been described by housing experts as a "let them eat cake" moment and, according to some journalists, the response has been described as a "Joe “get a good job” Hockey-esque betrayal of elite aloofness and class prejudice."
Crikey contributor, Benjamin Clark, suggested the comments are indicative of a negative opinion towards renters by both Mr. Morrison's and federal politicians in general:
But Morrison’s comments, and his government’s lack of rental relief policies, illustrate a specific prejudice shared by many federal politicians: they look down upon renters. They routinely treat renting as a brief waystation on the road to home ownership, instead of a long-term way of life for millions of Aussies that ought to be improved. This is despite an increasing proportion (more than a third) of Australians renting their homes, for longer periods, due to skyrocketing house prices.
Dr. Cassandra Goldie, the chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, claimed that the federal government was “treating renters like second-class citizens”. Dr. Goldie noted that the $5 billion commonwealth rental assistance program broke down into only $73 per week for a single renter and that this allocation has not grown in relative terms in more than two decades. This is contrasted against the increase in average rent in Australia, which has grown by 18% since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Because of this, Dr. Goldie suggested increasing renters incomes would be the preferred method of addressing renters struggles and that the government's measures are only serving to increase housing prices:
“Renting should be a decent, secure, long term option for putting a roof over your head and having a home. The best way to support renters is to lift their incomes so they can better afford rent, and build social housing. The housing measures announced in last night’s budget will only push up house prices. They won’t help people on the lowest incomes keep a roof over their head.”
Dr. Chris Martin, a housing policy expert at the University of New South Wales, appeared to suggest that Mr. Morrison's response was out of touch with the realities of renters:
“Thirty percent of low income people on the private rental market do not have $500 in savings for emergencies, let alone a 5% deposit for a home loan,” Martin said.
Dr. Martin continued stating the increase in the liability cap of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation was welcome but criticised the lack of funding for social housing, claiming that social housing in Australia is "not funded to grow" and in fact "has been on starvation rations for the last 20-30 years and it is still on starvation rations in this budget.”
Dr. Michael Fotheringham, the managing director of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, stated that a government measure which made the assumption that it was possible for most Australians to buy a house "was no longer fit for purpose."