Rent assistance grants welcomed


Tara Murray

A one-off grant to help struggling renters is only the first step in helping those hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Tenants Victoria.

The state government last week announced one-off grants worth up to $1500 for eligible renters, which will be made via a contribution towards the cost of their rent paid directly to their landlord.

Tenants Victoria chief executive Jennifer Beveridge said this was much-needed, especially for hard hit sectors like hospitality, retail and entertainment workers who have been stood down or lost hours due to the pandemic.

“It’s both a good first step, and recognition of what renters financially affected by the lockdowns are experiencing – many have told us they are really hurting from the cumulative financial impact of a succession of lockdowns.”

Ms Beveridge said while Tenants Victoria welcomed the move, they would continue to work with other housing sector organisations and the state government to seek further support for renters, including legislative changes.

She said the state government needs to look at the suspension of evictions during a lockdown period, which was in place during last year’s lockdown.

In a recent Tenants Victoria’ report, Brimbank was named a hotspot for people whose ability to pay rent had been impacted.

According to the survey, 55 per cent of respondents from Brimbank reported problems making rent payments.

The Salvation Army’s homelessness manager in western metro Victoria Cheryl McKinley they were seeing more people needing help.

“COVID-19 has brought with it many stressors; the insecurity of employment, at times driven by the pivoting between being in and out lockdown, which has had an impacted household income.

“This has been especially tough for those in retail, hospitality and personal service industries.

“Balancing the household budget is difficult for many Victorians but adding insecure income to the mix can have dire effects.

“The Relief Grant allows another option of support for households with the aim of keeping people in their current homes.

Brimbank Melton Community Legal Centre, which is part of CommUnity Plus Services, said recently it had seen an increase in people seeking help with rent payments.

Tenancy and generalist lead lawyer Cameron Bloye said many of clients were already struggling with their rent before the pandemic.

Housing Minister Richard Wynne said the last thing struggling Victorians needed to worry about is whether they can keep a roof over their head.

“This will help to alleviate those very real concerns of residential tenants who are financially struggling due to the economic impacts of the pandemic.”