There’s a psychological gap between renting and owning a home which has a significant impact on people’s sense of community belonging.  Renting in Australia is usually regarded as an inferior, temporary form of occupancy.  But with so many people now renting long term, what impact will such a perception have on our neighbourhoods?  LNB regards longer term rental as a way to redress some of the imbalance and give people – renters – more control over their living environment so they have a greater sense of belonging.

One in five households rent

These days, one in five households rent – through either circumstance or preference, and the majority of renters are on fixed term six or twelve month leases or a periodic tenancy.  LNB is keen to push beyond these two options to extend the community experience to long-term renters who are interested in making a home and staying in the property (and hence the local community) for a longer time.

Longer term leases might be a solution

One home in the LNB Aldinga project was retained for a renter and we developed a long-term lease with conditions that would attract someone who was interested in long term security and stability.  We offered a two-year lease with an annual option provided to extend the lease for a further two years, and the capacity for the tenant to provide a shorter period of notice if their circumstances change.  The lease will comply with tenancies regulations including four weeks bond and rent paid via direct debit, adjusted annually in line with CPI.

We’ll review the conditions after year four at which time we’ll also do any major maintenance that may be required – we’re considering an option to provide one week rent free after year four so we can do some of the work that’s difficult to do around an occupant – a re-paint, plumbing upgrade etc.  Maybe we can coincide the maintenance at a time when the tenant is on holiday so they’re not inconvenienced!

Older people and families with children want long term security and certainty

There are several groups who tend to want longer term security and certainty, including older people and families with children.  We consider it possible to trade off some of the rigidity often associated with private rental in exchange for security and certainty (for both parties) and we’re hoping that this has a positive impact on tenants’ sense of home and their ability to regard their living environment as their neighbourhood, increasing their sense of belonging to the community.

Our communities need renters.  And renters need community.

To further support a sense of home, we’ll consult the tenant when it comes to curtains, heating and cooling, garden, pets and other items.  We’ve installed a 2KW solar system, solar HWS and 22,000l rainwater and the property is designed, orientated and built to minimise energy use –  so weekly running costs for the home will be lower than average, contributing to its cost-effectiveness for the tenant.

Interestingly though, we’ve observed that the rental market broadly ignores the sorts of benefits we offer.  It’s as if it’s too far removed from people’s expectations, so price and location continue to dominate the decision-making process.  I raised this point at a recent consultation with The Center for Social Innovation (TACSI), who is currently working to address the needs of a growing number of older renters.  The creation of an association of like-minded investors and agents was discussed – an organisation to provide support, services or networks to people interested in challenging the private rental status quo and creating some sort of system which better accommodates renters’ need for long term security.  With so many more people now permanent renters, it’s certainly worth pursuing innovation in the private rental sector.