Where are all the 300,000 vacant homes in New South Wales?

On census night, Sydney reported tens of thousands of vacant dwellings, with the Delta shutdown and harsh international border restrictions driving vacancies higher than in 2016. Meanwhile, despite the acute housing crisis, up to a fifth of properties in typical beach tourist destinations were vacant. Data from the 2021 census, categorized by local government area for The Sun-Herald, indicate the location of roughly 300,000 empty dwellings throughout New South Wales.

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On census night, the Eurobodalla Shire just on South Coast had 1941 empty dwellings, accounting for 25.4% of total housing stock. This was the most significant share of any New South Wales LGA, showing its popularity as a weekend getaway for Sydney and Canberra.

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Eurobodalla Mayor Mathew Hatcher recently wrote to approximately 8000 non-resident taxpayers who own homes along the South Coast, imploring them to take into account renting them out for one to two years to alleviate the area’s acute housing shortage, which was exacerbated by the destruction of homes in the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires.
In the adjacent Shoalhaven, 21.8 percent of residences were vacant. It was 21.3 percent deeper inland, in the Snowy Monaro area.

Several additional LGAs, notably Bega Valley, the Blue Mountains, Port Stephens, MidCoast, and Byron Shire, have 10-15% of their houses empty. The Central Coast has 14,532 empty houses, accounting for 9.5% of the total housing stock.
Rose Jackson, the New South Wales Labor’s housing spokesman, said it was important to have a “serious dialogue” about unoccupied properties.
” That this was not the be-all and end-all of resolving our dire housing crisis, “But it is a key component of it,” Jackson added, especially in rural regions and the Central Coast.”
” Some people have vocations that need them to be in specified locations, such as teachers and nurses, and they just could indeed find a place to reside, see several abandoned houses.”

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New South Wales
Tathra Wharf, is one of several LGAs that had 10-15 percent of dwellings vacant. photo credit: visitnsw.com

The New South Wales government “lacked inventiveness”

The New South Wales government, according to Jackson, “lacked inventiveness” in attempting to fix the problem and should examine initiatives to promote owners to return homes to the long-term rental market.
If Labor wins the state election next year, she says she would reconsider the planning rules that allow for short-term lettings of up to 180 days per year, but she will be cautious not to ruin the tourist business in vacation destinations.
Brendan Coates, head of the Grattan Institute’s economic policy program, stated that banning holiday lettings will come at a cost. You may be provided with a roof above your head, but will you be at chance of losing your job?
According to Professor Nicole Gurran of the University of Sydney, there have always been holiday houses on the South and North Coasts. Platforms like Airbnb were not the root culprit, she claimed, but the present short-term rental lodging legislation did not strike the correct balance.
“A hotel would be lucky to be filled for 180 nights per year.” “That’s more than I do every weekend,” Gurran explained.
She also stated that governments should have temporary access to vacant houses after a calamity, such as a wildfire or a flood.
Dr. Peter Tulip, head economist of the libertarian think tank the Institute for Independent Research and analysis, believes that platforms like Airbnb assist fill unoccupied homes and should thus be promoted rather than prohibited.
“If property owners chose to leave their land vacant, it may not seem to be the most effective use of their resources,” Tulip observed.

According to a Department of Planning and Environment spokeswoman, the planning system cannot dictate how individuals use their homes, and the government’s priority is on supply.
Victoria City has a special tax on empty residences, which Coates says “sounded wonderful but didn’t make much of a difference in fact” since it allowed for both vacation homes and city pads for rural people.
According to a spokesman for New South Wales Treasurer Matt Kean, in the most recent state budget, the New South Wales government raised the Foreign Investor Surcharge land tax to 4%, which would benefit the degree that foreign investors held unoccupied properties.

She did, however, point out that the increase in the percentage of empty houses has been generally stable over the last 25 years, according to census statistics dating back to 1996.

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There were significant fluctuations at the local government level, but Kishan Ratnam, a senior analyst, and associate at SGS Economics & Planning blamed this on the closure and international border closure. He said that fewer international students were affecting inner-city districts, while local employees moved to the suburbs and provinces searching for space.

On census night last year, at the height of the harsh Delta lockdown, the City of Sydney had 18,733 vacant residences. This equated to 15.2% of the housing stock being empty, a 4.7 percentage point increase from 2016.

Other Sydney LGAs, including the Inner West, Strathfield, Parramatta, Ryde, North Sydney, Woollahra, and Randwick, had a 2-3 percentage point increase in the number of unoccupied properties compared to 2016.
“More recent data suggest vacancy rates are reducing pretty quickly, and rents are growing in major metropolitan regions,” Ratnam added, reversing the trend.
Meanwhile, outback LGAs including Bourke and Cobar had a high number of empty residences, most likely due to population loss.
Since 1986, the census hasn’t gathered data on why houses were vacant. At the time, a quarter of unoccupied properties in Australia were holiday homes, and 35% had the occupant absent on census night. Other factors were residences for sale or between tenants, freshly developed properties, and renovations.

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