Hundreds of protestors demonstrated outside Sydney Town Hall earlier this month to urge federal and state governments to tackle rampant housing and rental unaffordability.
The rally on September 9 consisted mainly of young adults determined to highlight the housing stress on lower-income earners. They demanded the government implement a 2-year rent freeze, build more public housing, improve rent assist, end for-profit student accommodation, and tax rich property developers.
“Young people and students are feeling the real hit of this housing crisis because of the casualisation of work, the pressures of university, the cost of university and TAFE education,” Leong said. “Things that used to be free when politicians managed to save money to buy their investment properties are now costing students a fortune.”
She also criticised the $38.9 billion in tax concessions the Federal Government will pay to property developers this year.
“How many billions are they giving to renters to subsidise their rental costs?” she said. “How many billions are they putting into the delivery of public housing?”
Leong said for-profit student accommodation providers exploit the crisis, charging students high amounts for substandard rooms.
“Perhaps they should start with abolishing the toxic colleges at Sydney University and making it student-run,” she said.
Lucas Pierce, a politics student from the University of Sydney and member of the Socialist Alternative, called for government action. “It’s reached insane proportions. It’s an international crisis and the government isn’t doing anything about it,” Pierce said.
Youth activist Ambrose Hayes said he lives with his parents because he is unable to access the rental market due to unfair junior pay rates. He earns below the minimum wage. “I don’t have the money to be able to afford to rent,” said Hayes. “I haven’t been in the rental market yet because I can’t.”
The rally was part of a community campaign the Greens are running to insist the Albanese government increase investment in affordable and social housing in the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF).
The Greens accepted the HAFF on September 11 after Labor offered an extra $1 billion for public housing, but the government has ruled out the rent freeze and caps.
Dr Chris Martin, housing expert at UNSW, said the government is driving the crisis due to deficient investment in the public rental sector, and failing to meet community needs.
The Committee for Sydney highlights the severity of the crisis in a recent report, finding that median rents have increased nearly 40 per cent in the past decade.
Dr Martin said regulating a 3 per cent rent increase per annum and making rent assistance more accessible for lower-income earners are short-term solutions to alleviate housing stress while the HAFF comes into effect.
The National Union of Students plans to organise another housing crisis rally soon.