Jenny Leong from the New South Wales Greens has leapt into the headlines this week by announcing a proposed radical change to the laws governing tenancy. The candidate for the new seat of Newtown wishes to strip landlords of their powers to raise rents and eviction in a bid to redress what she claims ar outdated tenancy laws.

Her changes would allow landlords to increase rents only once per year. Those rises would be capped at the current rate of inflation (or the consumer price index – usually 2-3 per cent a year). Furthermore landlords would no longer have the power to evict renters without a legally valid reason.

Ms Leong says her changes are made with a mind to protecting tenants in an already “overstressed hosing market.”

“I think it’s pretty clear to everyone,” she told reporters, “that Sydney is becoming one of the most expensive places to live in. There’s been a real shift to where long-term renting is the norm.”

Her observations are backed up by an International Monetary Fund report which, in November, found that the ratio between housing prices and average income was 31.6 per cent above the historical average.

So, just as homeownership is becoming more difficult so too is home rental.

Median rents in inner Sydney are estimated to have increased by 207 per cent between 1991 and 2011. Across Sydney generally rents have increased in the same period by 163 per cent.

“It’s pretty clear we have a crisis of affordability of lig in the city,” Ms Leong continued.

“We need to look at ways to fix this that reflect community needs, not necessarily what’s going to protect profits or interests.”

Doing away with the ‘no grounds’ evictions and restricting rent rises to once a year (unless there were substantial improvements made to the property) would give tenants more long-term security; a message sure to find a receptive audience in her high renter constituency.

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