The Tenants Union of Tasmania have clearly stated their belief that housing as an investment class should not exist (image below). But it does, and thousands of Tasmanians have invested in property, typically as they’re striving to avoid reliance on the government and for financial independence.
In articulating their contempt for investment in housing and those that do, Mr Bartl has made it clear that any attempts for a fair and balanced relationship between owners and tenants will be fruitless, given their strategy is clearly to make investment property ownership as unfair, unviable and unattractive as possible in hopes that people simply give up.
Unpacking the practicalities of their goal, where will people who do not want the expense and commitment of buying live? Is owning vacant land also morally wrong in their book given the land could be used for homes? Given shares and superannuation often comprise of housing investment too, are they also targets on their hit list? And why draw the line at micromanaging what owners can do with the granny flat under their property that has its own entrance when there are thousands of empty bedrooms across Tasmania each night? Where are the calls from the Tenants Union for those owners to take in boarders or lodgers?
The intensive regulation and new taxes proposed by the Tenants Union of Tasmania are a distraction from the root cause of Tasmania’s dire housing situation. They’re clearly adopting a low hanging fruit approach and are more focused on snatching apples from other people’s hands than nurturing the tree so there is enough to go around. The only way to work through our housing troubles is to have a firm grip on reality.
Mr Bartl claims that hundreds of homes across the state are vacant, and that may well be the case for a range of reasons. The owner may be in aged care with a, sadly naïve, view that they’ll return home, the owner may also be psychologically using their property as a shack but rarely actually get there, or the owner may simply have decided that the risks associated with renting the property out on a long-term basis are more than they are willing to accept.
Investment property ownership inherently requires managing risks and many owners have been badly burnt in the past, be it from thousands in unpaid rent, heartbreaking property damage or processes taking several weeks to go through the court system before they finally get back possession of their property when things have gone wrong.
There are actions we can take by simply looking at the reasoning behind the decisions investment property owners make. For instance, a truly fair and balanced relationship between owner and tenant would encourage more owners to offer their property for rent or switch it to long-term rental from short-stay visitor accommodation.
A government-funded short-term program which provides owners with a guarantee that they won’t be left financially out of pocket if they offer their property for rent could bring more rentals to the market. As would offering owners increased flexibility – such as the ability to inspect a property monthly rather than quarterly and to end a lease without reason with 60 days notice – in exchange for renting the property at 20 per cent below the median.
These are win-win actions that address some of the factors deterring owners from renting their property while increasing the number of properties immediately available while we build ourselves out of the undersupply hole we’re peering up from. We certainly don’t need more of the over regulation and micromanagement that has already contributed to where we are today.