House Rules are Hurting Us

Date: 11 Sep 21

Opinion Editorial as published in Herald Sun on 11 September 2021
Without a shadow of doubt, decisions on where and how we live and work are among the most important we have to make in our lives.
Whether it’s renting an apartment, buying a house or leasing a site for a small business, finding appropriate living and working arrangements is a basic necessity of human life.
There’s also no disputing the ability to inspect these properties safely within a COVID-19 environment.
Inspections by 15-minute appointments only. Time between for cleaning. No touching surfaces. Masks. Sanitizer. QR codes. They’re among a long list of measures the real estate sector has been adhering to since the pandemic struck.

But despite the sector’s strong operational track record, and recent leadership to influence a movement on vaccination, the Victorian Government insists on keeping the property market shut through its onerous and unnecessary restrictions.
As a result, Victorians are losing deposits, defaulting on contracts and are unable to secure appropriate living arrangements. And it has to be remembered that many of these people are not moving by choice.
It’s leaving families in distress and endangering lives. Our members regularly convey the severe hardship many of their clients are facing and we shudder at the thought of potential longer-term consequences.
This untenable situation forced the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) to take a different approach this week. Blue-in-the-face from calling Government representatives and making multiple representations, the REIV, on behalf of tens of thousands of industry employees and impacted Victorians, mounted a loud, public campaign.
The Locked down and locked out advertisement that appeared in this newspaper Wednesday – and again today – has triggered strong reaction. Thousands upon thousands of people have joined in a chorus of concern, pleading for the Government to listen. The REIV’s social media posts have reached more than 100,000 people and recorded nearly 14,000 interactions in just the past couple of days. Many of these engaged advocates have begun to write to the Premier. 
Online sentiment overwhelmingly favours a return to private in-person inspections.
And this groundswell of grassroots support is echoed by business analysts, informed economic commentators and industry leaders, who are bewildered by the Government’s indifference to such a significant sector – over 40 per cent of the Victorian Government’s revenue comes from property taxes.
Premier Andrews has stated an intention to allow inspections in vacant properties once the state reaches a 70 per cent first-dose rate.
But that won’t be enough. Far from it. Thousands of people will still be flying blind when making decisions on property. And the market will still remain dormant, with low transactions only sky-rocketing prices and putting them out of reach for many.
The REIV stands ready to work with the Government on a quick transition back to a more sensible list of restrictions that, critically, includes an allowance for private in-person inspections.
In doing so, we will be ensuring Victorians are supported when making these ever so important decisions in life.