Senate committee rejects opportunity to pilot measures to Help renters with energy costs

Disappointed, but not surprised.

That was CHIA CEO Peta Winzar‘s response to advice that the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee had rejected a Bill to pilot a scheme to improve the energy security of low income renters.

‘The evidence put to the Committee about the poor thermal qualities of rental housing was compelling’ she said:

  • in the ACT 43 per cent of rental properties have a 0-star rating,
  • In South Australia, less than four per cent of renters live in homes with solar panels,
  • In Victoria, 58 per cent of private renters and 55 per cent of public renters live in a house with ceiling insulation, compared to 95 per cent of home owners/buyers, and
  • in Queensland, 40 per cent of renters live in properties with insulation compared to 80 per cent of owner occupiers.

The Bill proposed by Senator Storer envisaged a three-year pilot program offering up to $2,000 to landlords, including community housing landlords, to improve energy efficiency of buildings and appliances. The Committee acknowledged that many Australian households struggle with high energy bills and that improved energy efficiency will result in lower energy bills and improved health and wellbeing of tenants.  However, it recommended that the Bill not be passed, suggesting that further consultation into this ‘complex policy area’ was needed.

While describing the energy efficiency of rental properties as seriously inadequate, the committee noted several concerns raised in Submissions: that better energy efficiency might lead to higher rents, that the $300 weekly rental threshold proposed would exclude many renters, and the maximum incentive of $2,000 per year may be too low to fund many improvements and would have a low take up by landlords.

‘CHIA will take this issue up with both the Government and the Opposition, she said, pointing out that channelling these funds through community housing operators would be an effective way to address each of these concerns.

‘Income-linked rents in community housing avoids the problem that energy efficiency investments could lead to rent increases. The $300 pw rent threshold is certainly low, but most community housing tenants fall under this threshold –  and it is these lowest income households who have most difficulty with energy bills.

‘And I can guarantee that community housing providers would snap up the opportunity to improve energy security for their low income tenants, she said.

Find the committee’s report here.

and Senator Storer’s media release here.