Rent help set to be part of third package

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, potentially putting them in rental stress.
Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, potentially putting them in rental stress.

Commercial and residential rental assistance looks set to be part of a third stimulus package to be announced by the Morrison government in the next few days to counter the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Speaking after a meeting of the national cabinet, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a lot of work was being done to get a consistent approach on residential tenancies.

"It is an issue that is a high priority," Mr Morrison said on Friday.

Hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their jobs as COVID-19 affects businesses around the country, potentially putting them in rental stress.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said many Canberra families who were leasing property were very concerned about how they would continue to pay the rent if they lost their job.

"The national cabinet will continue to work on the appropriate mechanisms to ensure that people who have lost their job or their income due to this unprecedented situation will not be kicked out of their home," he told reporters after the phone hook-up with other leaders.

"These families need assurances that they will be able to keep a roof over their head, particularly as we head into the winter months."

Tasmania has already agreed on a 120-day evictions moratorium to help struggling renters.

Banks have offered freezes on mortgage repayments and energy companies are being urged to show compassion over unpaid bills, with more Australians facing unemployment due to businesses closing.

Businesses, too, are still having to pay their landlords, even if their workplace has shut down.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said many businesses faced the "perfect storm" of a drop-off in revenue coupled with continuing fixed costs.

"One of the big fixed costs is obviously rental obligations," he told Sky News.

While commercial tenancies are regulated at the state level, Senator Cormann is hopeful of sensible, pragmatic solutions that spread the pain to "ensure that we all have the best possible chance to get through this".

He also noted governments themselves are landlords and rent out space to businesses.

"There is an opportunity for the governments, state and federal, to lead by example in terms of the way we conduct ourselves," Senator Cormann said.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is already one step ahead, saying his government is waiving the rent of small businesses that rent space in government-owned buildings.

"We want as many of our businesses to remain businesses over a period of time and our workers to remain in jobs," he told reporters in Sydney.

The national cabinet discussions come after retail mogul Solomon Lew said on Thursday he would not pay rent on commercial premises after shutting stores and standing down 9000 staff globally.

The billionaire holds 43 per cent of Premier Investments, which runs outlets including Smiggle, Just Jeans and Peter Alexander.

Australian Associated Press