Chief Minister Andrew Barr has berated the ACT real estate institute for expressing concern about a new rent reduction scheme, labeling it "out of touch".
Mr Barr said the government was prepared to "drag landlords to the table" if they didn't play their part in helping Canberrans through the economic downturn.
The row erupted following the release of the government's new $214 million coronavirus rescue package, which included financial incentives for landlords to reduce rental pressure on struggling tenants.
In an initiative set to cost $39 million, the government will hand rate rebates to landlords who reduce rents for their tenants by at least 25 per cent.
The rebate will be equal to half the amount of the rent reduction, up to a maximum of about $100 per week for the next six months.
Speaking on ABC Radio on Friday morning, Real Estate Institute of the ACT president Craig Bright described the scheme as "problematic" for landlords.
"For example, [for landlords] to receive the full rebate on a property rented at $400 per week, the rent would have to be reduced by half, which is very problematic for owners as you can imagine," Mr Bright said.
"And people have to remember that there are a lot of property owners who are unemployed as well."
Mr Bright said the support should be offered in the form of rent deferrals, rather than rent reductions.
"My concern is can owners afford the extra burden? It was [already] becoming marginal to own an investment property in the ACT."
Asked to respond to the comments at a press conference on Friday afternoon, Mr Barr unloaded on the real estate group.
"The pain is going to be shared by everyone," he said. "There is no world where landlords are going to skate through this without experiencing some pain.
"Landlords need to be part of the solution.
"Those comments were particularly unhelpful and particularly out of touch. They represent a small sectoral interest and frankly the broader community is starting to get a little sick of people trying to protect their patch and refusing to budge."
Emphasising that he was in lock-step with the prime minister on the issue, Mr Barr said governments would be prepared to "drag landlords to be table if we had to".
He said the ACT government was playing its role by offering tens of millions of dollars of payments - now it was up to landlords to do their bit.
"To the real estate institute, think again.
"Think about this and think about the implications for the broader community. It's not just about how much money you can make and how much money you can salvage out of this situation."
The Canberra Times has contacted Mr Bright for comment.
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