Australia is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. Rental prices in Australia are some of the highest in the world. In Canberra both prices and reports of discrimination by landlords and real estate agents rising.
Now a handful of new apps are here to make it even worse.
RentBerry, Property Connect and RentWolf all seek to pit tenants against each other by forcing desperate applicants into rent bidding wars.
The makers of these apps like to say they’re “disrupting” the property market. But really, they’re pouring petrol on a bonfire.
The Victorian Government has already moved to ban rent bidding apps. Now it’s time for other States to follow suit and put a stop to these cynical platforms before they make affordable housing even further out of reach.
“As if life for renters in big cities weren’t hellish enough, [a new] startup promises to make it even more of a nightmare”.
That’s what American publication Grist had to say when Rentberry was first launched in San Francisco three years ago.
Just three months after launching the CEO of Rentberry admitted the app had already driven up rents in San Francisco and San Jose an average of 5 percent above listing price.
Any renter in Australia knows that competition for properties is already fierce with sometimes hundreds of people applying for the same property. But it's even harder for ethnic minorities and people with disabilities who report facing huge discrimination in the rental market.
A study in Western Sydney found that white applicants were four times more likely to be offered properties or referred on to others, than people of a minority ethnic group. Apps like Property Connect will only compound these problems by placing higher income earners at even greater advantage.
It’s not hard to see why the only people celebrating the arrival of these apps in Australia are property developers and profit-hungry tech firms.
Across the world SumOfUs members have stood up against tech companies that place profits over people. We helped stop London licensing Uber again until it cleaned up its act, fought to keep Airbnb out of illegal Israeli settlements and have stood alongside Deliveroo riders fighting for fair wages in the Netherlands.
At a point where people all over Australia are feeling the pressures of housing insecurity and an economy that increasingly benefits the top percentile of income earners, we need to stand strong against tech that entrenches inequality rather than combats it.