Tax on vacant properties could help renters

Adam Smith 24 November 2016

money jarA planning group has claimed a tax on property investors could lead to more affordable rents.

A day after a report by SGS Economics and Planning found low income households were being pushed into homelessness by high rents, SGS Economics and Planning senior associate Ellen Witte has told News Corp a vacancy tax could help alleviate high rents.

“I think it’s a measure that’s only effective to alleviate some of the housing stress in specific geographic locations, particularly inner city areas where there are high numbers of vacant units, but in those areas it would definitely make a difference,” Witte said.

Charity group Launch Housing earlier this year called on the Victorian government to tax vacant housing, and a report by the UNSW City Futures Research Centre claimed that up to 90,000 properties were sitting empty in some of Sydney’s most desirable suburbs.

“Where property owners do not [rent their properties], the tax revenue could be used to reinvest back into affordable housing,” Witte said.

But Witte conceded that a vacancy tax alone would not resolve rental affordability issues.

“It needs a multi-layered approach. We need review and reform of the existing Australian tax regime, especially around capital gains tax rebate and negative gearing, and that’s really to make the housing market more attractive to first home buyers and take out some of the inflationary forces that is created by those tax measures.”

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