Hundreds of protesters have descended on Sydney Town Hall, calling on the New South Wales government to make more commitments to public housing and fixing rental affordability in their upcoming budget.
The Rally to Fix the Housing Crisis got underway early on Saturday afternoon, with crowd largely consisting of young adults who will likely never own their own home, under current conditions, and struggle to make rent.
The rally was organised by the National Union of Students (NSU) and the NSW Greens, and will feature a number of speakers including politicians, union representatives, and special interest groups across Sydney.
Those addressing the crowd included Greens Member for Newtown Jenny Leong, and NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi.
Ms Leong says “banks, big investors, and dodgy developers” are getting rich off the housing crisis, while renters are hit with rent increases they can’t afford.
“This budget the NSW Minns Labor Government has a choice — will they genuinely invest in action for renters and public housing tenants, or will they continue to side with those profiting from the housing and cost of living crisis?” Ms Leong said.
“The Greens want to see an immediate freeze on rent increases, a massive investment in public housing, and an end to the sell off of public land.”
NSU’s representative of their Get A Room campaign Cherish Kuehlmann says renters and owner-occupiers are “sick of being blamed for inflation and punished by high interest rates, while corporations and banks report record profits.”
“We are sick of the empty promises from Labor while they demolish public housing,” Ms Kuehlmann said.
“Giving free reign to developers to build more dodgy apartments does nothing to help the millions of renters already facing exorbitant increases and financial stress in the here and now.
“We are putting the Minns Government on notice to take action in this budget – cap rents and expand public housing or face further protest from the community.”
According to the event description on Facebook, protesters are calling on both the NSW and federal governments to implement a rent freeze; build more public housing; raise rent assist; tax property developers; strengthen renters’ rights; end for-profit student accommodation; and introduce a corporate super-profits tax.
NSW Housing and Homelessness Minister Rose Jackson says her government has “inherited a housing system that is broken after over 12 years of neglect the complete inaction from the former government.”
“We know that the only way we’re going to get people off the housing waitlist is by getting them into homes,” Ms Jackson said in a statement.
“Tackling this issue is a priority for me as a Minister for Housing and we are getting on with the job of getting people into homes. But we certainly have more to do.”
The Minister highlighted her commitments to having 30 per cent social housing on government land, appointing a Rental Commissioner, and approving the Affordable Housing Guidelines for 2023-24.
However, she would not be drawn on housing measures outlined in the state budget, which will be handed down on September 19.
Meanwhile, the rally was held on the same day fresh PropTrack data was released, showing rental vacancy rates nationally fell 0.14 percentage points in August to hit a new low of 1.10 per cent.
In Sydney they fell 0.19 points to 1.26 per cent.
Almost every other capital experienced a dip too: Melbourne (down 0.10 to 1.19 per cent), Brisbane (down 0.05 to 0.84 per cent), and Canberra (down 0.26 to 1.72 per cent), with Adelaide and Perth remaining the tightest rental markets in the country at 0.7 per cent.
Only Darwin saw an increase, up 0.17 to 1.70 per cent.
Originally published as Hundreds rally, calling on NSW government to fight housing crisis