Will a rent freeze help or hinder housing shortfall?

Finding a suitable, affordable rental property has been an ever-increasing challenge in recent years. And retirees who rent – about 16 per cent of over 50-year-olds, according to the YourlifeChoices Insights Survey – make up a big proportion of those on the poverty line. But rent freezes are not the answer, according to investment homeowners.

They have come out swinging against plans to implement and extend rent freeze measures across Australia. The Victorian government has already introduced a one-year freeze on rents for agreements started from June 2019. That was replicated by the Queensland government earlier this year.

Now, Victoria wants to restrict rent rises to no more than one every two years – and the increase would be capped.

Investor advocates say that is a step too far and will force many investors to sell, putting further pressure on an already tight rental market.

What the investment owners say

Simon Pressley, head of research at buyers’ agency Propertyology, believes rent freeze measures will only exacerbate the rental supply problem.

“The pressure on rent prices is entirely due to consistently discouraging property investment participation,” Mr Pressley says. Such policies “discourage everyday Aussies” from investing in real estate, he adds.

Patrick Durkin and Larry Schlesinger say that is already happening. “The proportion of properties being sold by investors has risen steadily through the year,” they wrote in the Australian Financial Review. It reached 40 per cent in Sydney in June and a near-record 36 per cent in Melbourne, up from about 30 per cent a year ago.

The pair wrote: “Each of these properties sold to an owner-occupier reduces the already tight supply of rental properties.”

Aidan Hartley, mortgage broker and owner at Blue Owl Finance, says renters should think longer term. “It’s possible that at some point in the near future they will become homeowners or investors themselves, so it can be short-sighted for those to want to back it,” he says.

Jess Wilson, Victoria’s shadow housing spokesperson, calls for “coordinated reforms … to increase the supply of new homes”. That would put downward pressure on house and rental prices, she says.

Are they right?

Untangling the rent freeze arguments is not easy. However, Mr Pressley’s claim that “pressure on rent prices is entirely due to consistently discouraging property investment participation” seems fanciful. Most would agree that the events of recent years and a general cost-of-living spike have played a part.

There’s no reason to doubt the assertion that investor selling has increased. But as for each investment property sold reducing the rental supply, that’s not necessarily the case. If the new owner-occupier was previously a renter, there would be no net change in supply.

Mr Hartley’s suggestion that it’s possible renters could become homeowners in the future may well be true – for some. It’s unlikely for the vast majority of renters, though. Not all “everyday Aussies”, as Mr Pressley calls them, will be able to buy. If they were, who would rent those properties.

Ms Wilson’s call for an increased supply of new homes seems reasonable. Governments, both state and federal, have taken an axe to social housing.

Mr Pressley says: “The government-funded rental pool is a piddly 300,000 out of 3.2 million nationwide. Three decades ago, they owned 400,000 rental homes, so they’ve sold off 100,000.”


The Australian Greens have called for a nationwide rent freeze, but that has clearly met with stiff opposition.

Tenants Victoria has just released its submission to the inquiry into the rental and housing affordability crisis in Victoria. Rather than a freeze, it argues for what it calls a “fairness formula”, which would effectively work as a cap. The formula would ensure fairness for both landlord and tenant, the advocacy group says.

With about 175,000 households nationally on the waiting list, social housing also needs to be a priority. Many of those waiting are aged 50-plus.

For those struggling with rent rises, there is potentially some relief available through the federal government Rent Assistance program. To find out if you qualify, check the Services Australia page. The amounts are small, but could make a crucial difference for some.

Rent freezes or not, the rental crisis doesn’t appear likely to end any time soon.

Are you an over 50-year-old renter or landlord? How have you been affected over the past few years? Is a rent freeze a good idea? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Rental market forces pet owners to make ‘heartbreaking’ choices

Disclaimer: All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. I don’t believe there should be a freeze on rents. Owners of these properties have expenses that are going up day by day. Taxes, Insurance, Council Rates, Body Corporate Fees including, Electricity, Gas, Water. No different to any other house owner. Unfortunately these increases need to be passed on to the tenants, who wouldn’t have a roof over their heads if it wasn’t for the owner of the said rented property. Price gouging by some greedy owners will always be prevalent and I believe most of this stems from Grubby Little Real Estate Agents encouraging and pressuring the said owners to increase the prices far above what is fair and necessary. I also believe that if the Government, State and Federal should repealed the very generous tax concessions for owners of multiple home. There would be a lot more properties on the markets for families to purchase at a reasonable price. I also I believe it’s an absolute disgrace and waste of taxpayers’ money that State Government’s build Public Housing on Prime Real Estate. Locations in So-called Blue Chip Suburbs, we’re the land is at a premium is absolutely ridiculous. Possibly 5 times as much land can be purchased for the same price and houses built in outer suburbs or new developments. Not to mention the additional traffic congestion, pollution and overcrowding. Jacka.

  2. Take away all the tax concessions from property investors and let the free market sort out housing. I suspect without the tax avoidance lurks property values would fall and more people could afford to purchase a place of their own.
    If renters become owners the same number of properties are still there.
    As to the homeless who can not afford to pay for private rentals because the free market has failed them governments should be building low cost basic accomodation with low rents. Nobody should be left homeless.
    And the other thing government should do is cut back on immigration as that is what is driving the housing shortage.

  3. I agree David. One of the main costs most landlords face is the mortgage and they pass that on to the renters. If the 50% capital gains tax concession was removed, then the rental properties might not be so attractive and would not cost as much.

    The argument that always seems to be used is that if it not attractive for landlords, they will drop out of the market, but the houses don’t disappear, they will be sold to renters or other landlords, perhaps at a lower price and it will reduce the costs for both the new landlord and the renters.

    And you are right about the migration numbers, they should be in balance with the available housing so we don’t get these shortages. The government say they don’t control the housing supply but they do control the demand for housing!

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