Sydney renters will be protected from eviction for the next 60 days if they have lost at least 25 per cent of their income in the latest lockdown, and landlords will be incentivised with up to $1500 to offer rent reductions to stressed tenants.
In a joint announcement on Tuesday afternoon, the federal government ramped up income support payments to anyone who has lost as little as eight hours of work due to the latest lockdown, while the NSW government triggered new laws that will ban landlords from evicting tenants.
Any NSW worker will be able to access federal government support payments of $375 a week if they have lost between eight to 20 hours of work a week. That goes up to $600 a week if they have lost more than 20 hours of work a week.
For non-employing sole traders, the payment is set at $1000 a week.
Landlords have also been offered some relief with a capped grant of up to $1500 or a reduction on their land tax on the condition they reduce rent for their tenants. The state government also announced an extra $12 million in funding for temporary accommodation for those at risk of – or experiencing – homelessness.
The extra support and protection come after Sydney entered its third week in lockdown with harsher restrictions.
There were repeated calls from advocates and the opposition for more help for tenants who worked casual shifts and other affected workers essential to make ends meet while following stay-at-home orders.
Tenants’ Union of New South Wales chief executive Leo Patterson Ross said it was a welcome recognition of the need for support for people who have lost income through this lockdown.
“The financial support and the incentive for landlords to reduce rent will make a difference,” he said.
“The stop on evictions for impacted renters gives those struggling with rent as a result of the lockdown greater certainty about their living situation and their ability to stay at home.
“We are concerned, however, about renters who might otherwise already be facing eviction for ‘no grounds’, including end of fixed terms, or other reasons. This is a bad time for people to be forced to move and find a new home.”
Labor MP and shadow minister for housing and homelessness Rose Jackson also welcomed the increased financial support and evictions ban.
“NSW renters have faced weeks of uncertainty as the COVID situation deteriorates and the lockdown drags on indefinitely. It’s good news that the NSW government has intervened to provide some support to residential renters in the form of an eviction moratorium and mechanisms to support landlords to reduce rent where tenants have lost income,” Ms Jackson said.
“These are welcome reforms, and I’m pleased the NSW government has listened to the concerns of the community to ensure no one is at risk of homelessness because they cannot afford their rent during lockdown.”
NSW Greens MP and spokesperson on housing and homelessness Jenny Leong said it was crucial any rent reductions did not leave tenants with a debt they could not repay.
“While the individual financial support being made available is necessary, it’s certainly not enough to cover the high rents and cost of living during this pandemic,” Ms Leong said.
“The NSW government needs to consider longer-term measures to protect renters, and that needs to start with an end to unfair ‘no grounds’ evictions as well as transparency around maintenance and the introduction of rent caps to stop dodgy landlords profiting from uninhabitable premises.”