Contributed from Victoria
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show that up to 11.2 properties in Australia are now unoccupied. This is up from 9.8 percent in 2006.
This is a total of 360,000 empty homes when many are having great trouble finding somewhere to live in and it is so costly that it creates major economic stress. Some of these are properties in transition in the housing market. But it still leaves plenty, around 200,000, which remain empty for the longer term.
Information from the ABS backs up findings from other research.
According to the 2016 census, over the previous 5 years, empty properties has gone up by 17 percent in Melbourne and 15 percent in Sydney.
What this tells us is that the combination of inflated mortgages and rents, with rising unoccupied dwellings is evidence of a building housing crisis.
It’s even worse when account is taken of the fact that it is younger Australians that are being especially hit. Home ownership among 25 to 35-year olds, has gone down 6 percent over the period.
Thousands are now forced to sleep in the streets every night. A much larger number are forced to live in hidden away poverty, because the burden mortgage repayments and rents means they must cut back on other necessities or fall into the trap of spiraling debt. The cost of housing has gone up as high as 70 percent over the decade.
Urban policy expert Hal Pawson from the University of New South Wales has described the situation as “cruel and immoral” and warned that the government must act to stem the growth in unoccupied housing.
Housing unaffordability is aggravated by the rise of precarious work that is pushing a growing proportion of Australians into the lower income bracket.
One thing is clear. The housing market is not working for many.
Politicians at the national and state levels, knowing this and fearing political backlash have made great noises about schemes to increase housing stock and provide more and cheaper housing. Unfortunately, the response has been inadequate and more of a cosmetic pretense action, rather than doing anything that will make a real difference.
Unless there is a fundamental change, the housing crisis will only deepen.
Part of the change must be to ensure that properties are not left vacant for no good reason. Investors using these properties to benefit from price rises and negative gearing, must be derived of the ability to do so.
Other possibilities are to introduce new laws to impose maximum rents and long-term security for residents, combined with a major boost to public and community housing. Much of this could be paid for, by taxing corporate property investors and cutting back on the government subsidies currently being provided to them.
These measures may not solve the whole problem on its own. But it would be a good start.