Wednesday, August 19, 2015

News from Central Dogma

You most likely do not know it – assuming you are halfway normal, you have almost certainly never even considered the question – but the Tenants’ Union’s network runs deep. Like the all-pervasive roots of an old growth forest, the subject of a Dan Brown novel, or an unhinged diatribe from Alex Jones, we form part of a global system…of tenants’ interest groups.
From Tanzania to Tennessee – and of course Telopea – we are at the coalface advocating for tenants’ rights. And like any global society, we have our own international headquarters. The International Union of Tenants was born in Zurich in 1926, but now finds its home in Stockholm.
International Union of Tenants General Secretary Magnus Hammar (dressed as Pitbull)
Whilst we appreciate the insights and perspective afforded to us by this intercontinental connectedness, we aren’t really detailing our every move back to Sweden. Plus our membership of the IUT is by free association. So put away that tinfoil hat!
And something provided to us recently by the IUT as part of their regular email rounds did give us food for thought. As you probably do know, rent control and its numerous variants have featured prominently in housing conversations of late.
The IUT highlights recent comments made by Kshama Sawant, a Seattle City council member, on the topic of controlling rents. Councillor Sawant compares rent regulation to minimum wage laws; ‘they are both minimum standards necessary to protect against the natural imbalance of power between landlord and tenant, or employer and employee. Rent control is not about repealing the market; it’s about reining in its excesses.’
We really should stress that Sawant’s views do not form part of any official TU position, decreed to us from above. And in any case, it’s not entirely clear which form of rental regulation the Councillor favours.
But we certainly applaud her comparison as both refreshing and engaging, in consideration of the proper role of Government in regulating markets for living space. Given the fundamental importance of shelter – a human right, after all – is it appropriate that we see its attainment as worthy of the same protection as the celebrated right to basic remuneration? How would we best achieve that in addressing the question of rent regulation?
And how would such an approach impact upon other facets of renting policy or housing affordability issues? For one, the Tenants' Union is a long-term proponent of the abolition of no grounds terminations for tenants in NSW. They feed housing insecurity, and disadvantage tenants in every aspect of their relationship with the landlord. At the very least, we suggest that this issue could also be looked at through a very similar lens. 
On a related note, the IUT would be pleased to have us remind you that October 5 is International Tenants Day! Get the streamers ready and the party pies in the oven. And stay tuned from us – we must just have a celebration going here at home.

The Real Magnus Hammer, Sydney, November 2012

Read more on the Tenant's Union's position on 'no grounds' terminations in our 5 Year report on the Residential Tenancies Act 2010

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