COVID-19 protections for renters welcomed, but must go further to prevent homelessness

2 September 2021

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today welcomed measures to protect and support rental households impacted by COVID-19, including a 12-week moratorium on evictions for rental arrears.  However, ACTCOSS is disappointed that broader protections, including a blanket eviction moratorium, have not been provided to prevent tenants experiencing vulnerable circumstances from being pushed into homelessness during a public health emergency and housing affordability crisis in Canberra.
ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “Evictions during the COVID-19 health and economic emergency, and especially during a lockdown, carries a significant personal and public health risk. We need to ensure no public or private rental tenant is forced into homelessness.
“ACTCOSS welcomes the ACT Government’s introduction of a moratorium on evictions for renters who have been impacted by COVID-19, including those under quarantine orders. However, many tenants will slip through this safety net.
“The moratorium on evictions for rental arrears that comes into effect today is limited to tenants who have lost 20% or more of gross income or have lost 8 or more hours of weekly work since lockdown commenced on 12 August. As with the COVID Disaster Payment itself, this excludes those people who were already out of work before the lockdown started. ACTCOSS also wants to make sure that the eviction moratorium applies to tenants in these circumstances, including public housing tenants and occupants.”
“Many low-income rental households in the ACT are currently faced with the double jeopardy of finding work and an affordable and appropriate rental property during lockdown. Those on JobKeeper are living on just $44 a day. We know from Anglicare Australia’s annual Rental Affordability Snapshot that there are no affordable private rentals in Canberra for people receiving JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, or the Disability Support Pension.
“Canberra is the most expensive capital city to rent, we have very low vacancy rates, a significant shortfall in social housing, and the highest rate of rental stress among low-income private rental households. And now we’re in lockdown. There is an extremely high risk that the eviction of a low-income household today would lead to homelessness and other risks to their personal safety due to the lack of adequate income support, employment, and housing options under lockdown conditions.”
Dr Campbell concluded: “The COVID-19 protections for renters introduced today by the ACT Government are much-needed and ACTCOSS welcomes them, but we would like them to go further. We have written to the ACT Attorney-General, Shane Rattenbury MLA calling for a blanket moratorium that protects all low-income and public housing tenants from eviction while COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on our community.”
Further information on the COVID-19 tenancy and occupancy measures commencing today:
The Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Declaration 2021 (No 3) is available here.
Information for Tenants and Occupants impacted by COVID-19 is available here.
Information for Landlords and Grantors impacted by COVID-19 is available here.
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.
For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.

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