Real estate industry welcomes Cook Labor Government’s $24.4M WA Rent Relief Program
REIWA supports WA Government’s latest measure to alleviate financial pressure for renters struggling through the rental crisis. Image: Canva.
  • WA Government launches $24.4M Rent Relief Program to aid financially vulnerable tenants.
  • The program will begin in December 2023, providing immediate support.
  • Industry welcomes the initiative to support tenants and stabilise the rental market.

The Western Australian (WA) state government announced its ‘WA Rent Relief Program’, aimed at aiding Western Australians at risk of eviction and suffering from rental stress.

To this end, the Government pledged $24.4 million in assistance to help financially precarious tenants in WA stay in their private rental homes.

The program will begin in December 2023, alongside other State Government initiatives to bolster WA’s housing supply and support private renters.

The program expands on the Cook Government’s Residential Tenancies Act 1987 reforms, which have seen rent rises being restricted to every 12 months and a ban on rent bidding. These changes are expected to come into force in 2024.

“My Government is absolutely focused on delivering cost of living relief and supporting Western Australians who are doing it tough,” said WA Premier, Roger Cook.

“Our strong financial management means we have the capacity to invest in new programs that support those who need it most.”

“The WA Rent Relief Program will help to keep a roof over the head of families that have hit hard times, helping them to get back on their feet.”

WA Premier, Roger Cook

“My Government is doing what’s right for WA – delivering cost of living relief like our electricity credit to every household, and taking action to boost housing supply to reduce pressure on our housing market.”

WA’s multi-pronged approach to solving the rental crisis

While it is true that the most obvious solution to solving the rental crisis is introducing more supply, to which both State and Federal Governments have shown an excellent track record so far, new supply takes time to reach the market.

Additionally, with WA struggling through a double whammy of record low vacancies and low listings, renters and first home buyers will most likely see themselves competing over any new stock that comes to the market for the foreseeable future.

Perth residential vacancy rates

The rent relief program will provide much-needed immediate respite for renters across the state afflicted with rental stress or at risk of losing their homes.

Perth total property listings

“Our Government is deeply cognisant of the current housing market across the country, and how it is impacting many Western Australian families, especially low income earners,” said WA Housing Minister, John Carey.

“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have radically reshaped housing markets across Australia – including tightening rental markets.

“We’re using every lever we can to not only bolster the supply of housing, but also to support and keep people in their tenancies – given the current demand for housing.”

Providing immediate relief for renters who are in urgent need

The program will involve community service organisations like Anglicare WA and Vinnies WA, which will help identify at-risk tenants through their services and networks and support these individuals in their rent relief applications.

“We’re acutely aware of the current pressures in the WA rental market – which is why we’re working with key community service organisations to support vulnerable Western Australians sustain their tenancies and to help keep them in their homes,” said WA Commerce Minister, Sue Ellery.

“In partnering with community service organisations, tenants in need will be supported during their negotiations with landlords, and provided additional social supports while they work through their individual circumstances.”

Here, the organisations will liaise with tenants and landlords to ensure the continuance of tenancy agreements as required by the program.

To qualify for the program, private tenants must demonstrate that they are in rental arrears and at risk of eviction or suffering from rental stress.

The relief includes payment of arrears or covering 50% of future rent costs for up to three months, capped at $5,000.

Where necessary, rent may be paid via a co-contribution model requiring tenants to display their commitment to the tenancy by doling out part of the ongoing rental costs. Rent relief will be paid directly to the landlord or through a property manager.

Industry response to WA’s rent relief program

Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA) CEO Cath Hart received the Cook Government’s announcement favourably.

“Rental conditions are extremely challenging at the moment, rents are at record highs and many tenants are experiencing significant rental stress,” she said.

“The most vulnerable in our community are finding it difficult to meet their rent payments and some are falling into arrears, putting them at risk of eviction. It can be very hard to recover from this situation and can put people at risk of homelessness.

“These initiatives will act as a circuit breaker for these tenants, offering immediate financial relief and helping them retain their homes, and also potentially providing additional support for a few months to help them get back on their feet.”

Hart also believed that the program would be similarly received by investors.

“The median rent has risen by 18% in the last 12 months, but the average mortgage has risen by 47% cent since rates started rising and will go up again after yesterday’s increase by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA),” she said.

Perth weekly rents

“Investors are also under increasing financial strain and some are selling as a result. However, what we are seeing is these homes are usually bought by owner-occupiers, not other investors. This puts further strain on an already tight rental market.

“When tenants fall into arrears, it impacts investors’ finances. By working to prevent this, the Program also supports investors, helping keep them in the market. And we need every investor we can get at the moment.”

The REIWA CEO predicted that the rent relief program would not affect rent prices.

“Unlike some incentives that can inflate the market, this program is focused on WA’s most vulnerable tenants, helping them meet their current obligations and providing some financial breathing room,” she said.

“Tenants will be required to demonstrate they meet the eligibility criteria, which includes experiencing rental stress, being in rental arrears, and being at risk of eviction. Payments will also be provided directly to investment property owners or via property managers.”

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