Opinion: Most landlords are decent and don’t deserve to be demonised

Jul 2023Karen Millers

The Queensland government should stop demonising landlords and start asking them to be part of the housing crisis solution. Now there’s an idea lost on this out-of-touch lot. Add it to the list.

Instead, property investors are being decried as greedy opportunists.

They are being blamed – in part, but still blamed – for the crippling housing shortage that has made Queensland a national disgrace, with the added distinction of having the lowest per-capita government spending on social and affordable housing.

This is divisionary politics, and a diversion tactic from dealing with a problem that has been festering for decades, with the full knowledge of government.

It hasn’t just snuck up on us – housing experts were warning two decades ago that we’d be in strife – and here we are.

But it’s not the fault of landlords. As this newspaper’s Hunger Games coverage and last year’s Hitting Home campaign clearly demonstrate, there are myriad factors at play.

The government’s shunning of landlords shows how poorly they understand the issue.

This week it was revealed that Team Palaszczuk failed to invite two of the country’s key property investment bodies to its October housing summit – despite both asking to attend.

The Property Investment Professionals of Australia and Property Investors Council of Australia were snubbed – and not for the first time.

PIPA chair Nicola McDougall said the bodies had “requested time and time again to have some representation in dealings with the government – we have always been knocked back”.

Ms McDougall said they wanted the state government to “recognise the vital role that investors play in the provision of rental properties”, and described the ongoing rejection as “perplexing”. That’s one word for it. Stupid is another.

It’s not a hard equation to understand, even for this government. When investors start pulling out of the market – as they are doing in droves – then supply shrinks even further, exacerbating the rental property shortage.

Ms McDougall said PIPA research from September showed the government’s changes to tenancy rights, the land tax threat and talk of a rent freeze led to 45 per cent of investors selling at least one property in the two years prior.

Imagine how much greater that percentage will be this year as economic pressures sting harder for investors who, to use Ms McDougall’s words, “are sick and tired of being treated like a cash cow for state government coffers”.

Housing Minister Meaghan Scanlon this week took a pot shot at landlords.

Ms Scanlon, who’s been in the portfolio for all of five minutes, said rental prices needed to come down, then referenced “some pretty unscrupulous operators who are taking advantage of the market and vulnerable people”.

There are bad eggs in any field, but Ms Scanlon should be engaging with investors, not deriding them.

I’m not a landlord. But I know plenty of people who are, and most are decent folk, often absorbing cost-of-living hikes themselves to avoid putting up the rent.

They want reliable tenants who won’t trash their properties and when they find them, they’ll do what they can to keep them.

Yet they are increasingly burdened by government overreach, and now scorn.

It’s not their fault if they are presented with a cornucopia of choice when it comes to selecting tenants.

If landlords are shown, say, 40 candidates – vetted by real estate agents from a much longer list – they can still only pick one.

As a friend who leases her regional property says: “It doesn’t mean the 39 others aren’t deserving.

“You might have two people fully employed with no kids and a bird, or a young couple trying to move out of home but with no experience in property maintenance – you go with what works for you.”

The government boasted that its housing summit would deliver positive change, but more than 300,000 Queenslanders are still looking for homes all these months later.

Instead of wasting opportunities to understand what’s really going on, it should be talking to landlords – and listening.

As Ms McDougall rightly put it this week: “Investors need a voice, just as tenants need a voice, and one can’t exist without the other.

“They should be treated equally – but they’re not.”

Originally Published: Kylie Lang | The Courier Mail | 7 July 2023


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