Census 2016: Empty claims about empty houses

Adam Smith 26 July 2017

empty house1New research has played down the fact that more than 1 million homes were unoccupied on Census night.

11.2% of houses were recorded as unoccupied during the 2016 Census, a total of 1,089,165 dwellings. The findings have seen some groups call for a tax to be levied on homes intentionally left vacant. However, a new analysis from SGS Economics & Planning has claimed that the problem of vacant housing isn’t as serious as it seems.

The group pointed to historical Census data, showing that the number of unoccupied dwellings grew by only 0.5% from the 2011 Census to 2016, and by slightly less than 1% from 1986 to today.

According to SGS Economics & Planning, there are a number of valid reasons as to why a property could be unoccupied on Census night. The group said that properties could be newly constructed but not yet occupied, undergoing repairs or renovations, used as a holiday home or simply unoccupied because residents were away.

“While there were over 1 million dwellings unoccupied on Census night, there does not appear to be a large pool of dwellings being withheld from the housing market," the group said. "It appears that most dwellings that were unoccupied on Census night were unoccupied for a very valid reason. The two largest categories of unoccupied dwellings are 'holiday homes' and 'residents absent', which account for two-thirds of all unoccupied dwellings.”

SGS Economics & Planning also pointed to the fact that dwellings in regional areas were more likely to be left vacant that dwellings in capital cities.

“This is the result of lower demand rather than housing being intentionally withheld from the housing market,” the group said.

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