This report presents the findings of an investigative panel that examined the prevalence and experience of energy hardship, in its different forms, within Australia’s rental housing market. The research considered the strategies and policy actions that could be taken to reduce the impact of energy hardship on the lives of Australian households. Important findings include the following.
- Exposure to energy hardship is particularly likely when vulnerable people—i.e. those with very low or no income, existing health issues, lack of support networks, or who face entrenched disadvantage—live in dwellings that are in poor condition.
- Across the private and social rental sectors, the challenges are different with respect to resident/tenant and landlord/property manager relationships, tenants’ rights, and the material condition of housing. Hence, the responses required to improve thermal efficiency and reduce energy hardship need to be tailored to the different tenant cohorts.
- No single set of policies or governmental actions will be able to meet the challenge of improving energy efficiency in the rental housing stock. Instead, a portfolio of measures is needed— including, for instance, mandatory building standards, targeted financial or material assistance for very vulnerable households, and investment in the public housing sector.
- Setting minimum standards for the energy performance of rental properties is a critical starting point in the process of reform, which some jurisdictions have already begun to undertake, independent of national leadership. Mandating acceptable levels of thermal performance across the nation’s rental housing stock is likely to deliver a population-wide benefit. However, such requirements are also likely to encounter resistance from many stakeholders within the property industry due to perceived added costs.
- Developing a consensus on what constitutes ‘safe’ housing —and tenants’ rights to it—among key government players, non-government stakeholders and housing providers would greatly assist in enabling policy action.