2GB DRIVE WITH JIM WILSON
THURSDAY, 25 MARCH 2021
SUBJECT: NSW Government 96 per cent underspend of rent rescue package.
JIM WILSON, HOST: It’s been tough in the rent market for renters and landlords over the past year or so. The state government pledged $400 million as part of a rental rescue package last April, but we've been provided exclusive details on drive claiming almost all of the funds for residential tenants remain in state government coffers. Can you believe this? Only 4.6 per cent of the total rescue package for residential tenants and landlords has been distributed by the government. So the question beckons: Where's the money? Commercial tenants have received less than half the allotted funds from the state government. Again, where's the rest of the money? Jason Clare is the federal Member for Blaxland and Western Sydney, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness and he joins me on the line this afternoon. G’day, Jason.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: G’day, Jim.
WILSON: Okay, so we know how tough it's been for tenants and landlords over the last 12 months. This rental rescue package makes sense. But as I say, where's the money gone?
CLARE: It's still in the government's bank account. That's the problem. Instead of going into the hands of landlords and tenants, it's still there on Macquarie Street where it's not needed.
One of the good things that happened last year was there were eviction freezes put into place right across the country, and they stopped tenants getting kicked out in the middle of the pandemic. That was a good thing, but state governments around the country also set these things up, these rent rescue funds, designed to help tenants who'd lost their job to pay the rent and not get evicted and make sure landlords weren't out of pocket.
And we find in New South Wales that a 200-odd million dollar fund was set up and only barely 4 per cent of it's out the door. So it's no good there. It doesn't help tenants or landlords if it's if it's still in Macquarie Street.
WILSON: So 4.6 per cent, that's for residential tenants as far as the rescue package. Commercial tenants, what is that at? What's the figure for that?
CLARE: There's about a $220 million fund set up for commercial tenants, think about the shops in Westfield that are struggling to pay the rent when there's not many people coming in the door. Think about a travel agent that hasn't got much to sell at the moment, they ended up handing out about 86 million of that, so less than half of it. So there's still a lot of that leftover. But almost all of the money that they set aside for landlords and for residential tenants is still there, untouched.
WILSON: So have you sought answers from the Berejiklian Government?
CLARE: We asked questions in the state parliament, I think a week and a half ago trying to find out what was going on. And all we got told was, “well, it hasn't been used and so we're going to shut it down”. The scheme as we talk right now, is planned to be shut down next Wednesday and all the money goes back into consolidated revenue.
WILSON: For landlords and tenants who have done a pretty tough, very tough, in the last 12 months, it was set up last April, they won't get that money?
CLARE: No, and they still need it.
WILSON: Of course they do.
CLARE: I reckon there’d be a lot of people listening right now thinking, “Well, I'm struggling to pay the rent, I’ve had my hours cut or I’ve lost my job”.
WILSON: JobKeeper’s about to end as well.
CLARE: On the weekend, that's right. And you know, I'm talking to you here from Federal Parliament, we got told, I think it was yesterday by Treasury, that maybe 100 to 150,000 people will lose their job when that shuts down. So there's a whole bunch of people who could benefit from a scheme like this. What I'm saying is, for God's sake Gladys, just fix the scheme. Don't shut it down. Fix it. There's simple ways you can make this easy for tenants and landlords to access.
WILSON: Well, absolutely. The money as you say, they're still doing it tough and will be very, very useful. Before I let you go, you've been the federal member for blaxland and west since 2007. The New South Wales Government has been given a B minus overall in this midterm report card by the Centre for Western Sydney. What's your response to that?
CLARE: I'm a federal member, but I see what the state government does and doesn't do. Just in my own electorate they promised a billion dollar hospital in Bankstown in the heart of my electorate, that was two years ago. We still haven't got a site picked or a put shovel in the ground. I'd love to see that happen sooner rather than later.
There's a big road that runs through the middle of Western Sydney called Stacey Street. I think the last time I read a report on it, it said it was the fifth slowest road in Australia. I've been banging on for ages asking the state government to widen that road. I’ve got my fingers crossed that they might actually pull their finger out and put some money in the budget to fix that too.
WILSON: Jason, appreciate your time this afternoon.
CLARE: Good on you. Thank you.
WILSON: Okay, so that's a drive exclusive as far as that rental rescue package that just hasn't seen the light of day.
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