Where are the 300,000 empty houses listed in the NSW census?

“You have a bunch of people with jobs that have to work in these cities, like teachers and nurses, who literally can’t find housing — and you also see a bunch of vacant properties.”

Jackson said the NSW Government was lacking creativity in trying to solve the problem and should be considering incentives to encourage owners to re-open properties to the long-term rental market.

Towns in Eurobodalla Shire, like Narooma, depend on tourism but lack housing for locals.

Towns in Eurobodalla Shire, like Narooma, depend on tourism but lack housing for locals.Recognition:Alamy

She said Labor will reconsider planning controls that allow short-term rentals of up to 180 days a year if they win next year’s state election, although she would be careful not to destroy tourism economies in holiday towns.

Brendan Coates, program director for economic policy at the Grattan Institute, said restricting vacation rentals would come at a cost. “You might get a roof over your head, but is there a risk of losing your job?”

Professor Nicole Gurran of the University of Sydney said there have always been holiday homes on the south and north coasts. Platforms like Airbnb are not the underlying cause, but the current policy of short-term rentals hasn’t struck the right balance, she said.

“A motel would probably be lucky if it was occupied 180 nights a year. That’s more than every weekend,” Gurran said.

She also said governments should have temporary access to vacant properties during a disaster such as bushfires or floods.

dr Peter Tulip, chief economist at the libertarian think tank Center for Independent Studies, said platforms like Airbnb have helped take advantage of vacant homes and should therefore be encouraged, not restricted.

“If owners want to leave their house empty, that may not seem like the most efficient use of their assets, but it’s their choice,” Tulip said.

A spokesman for the Department for Planning and Environment said the planning system cannot dictate how people use their property and the government’s focus is on supply.

Victoria has a special tax on unoccupied dwellings, a policy that Coates said “sounded good but didn’t make much of a difference in practice” as there have been carve-outs to allow for both holiday homes and apartment blocks for country dwellers.


A spokeswoman for NSW Treasurer Matt Kean said the NSW government had doubled the property tax for foreign investors to 4 per cent in the recent state budget, which would help as foreign investors held vacant properties.

However, she pointed out that the trend in the proportion of vacant homes has remained largely unchanged over the past 25 years, based on census data going back to 1996.

There has been wide volatility at the LGA level, but Kishan Ratnam, senior associate and partner at SGS Economics & Planning, attributed it to the lockdown and the international border closure. He said inner-city areas were being hit with lower numbers of international students, while local workers were moving to the suburbs and regions in search of space.

The city of Sydney had 18,733 unoccupied homes as of census night, which took place in August last year at the height of the Delta’s tough lockdown. This means that 15.2 percent of the housing stock was vacant, an increase of 4.7 percentage points since 2016.

Other Sydney LGAs saw a 2-3 percentage point increase in the percentage of vacant homes compared to 2016, including LGAs of the Inner West, Strathfield, Parramatta, Ryde, North Sydney, Woollahra and Randwick.


The trend has now reversed, “recent data shows that vacancy rates are falling quite sharply and rents are rising in central urban areas,” Ratnam said.

Meanwhile, outback LGAs like Bourke and Cobar also had high rates of vacant homes, likely because population numbers in the areas were declining.

The census has not collected data on why dwellings were unoccupied since 1986. Back then, a quarter of vacant homes across Australia were holiday homes and 35 per cent had the occupant simply absent by census night. Other reasons were apartments for sale or sublet, new builds and renovations.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/where-are-the-300-000-empty-homes-in-nsw-20220705-p5azcw.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national Where are the 300,000 empty houses listed in the NSW census?

Joel McCord

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