In the lead-up to the council elections, the Illawarra Greens have outlined a proposed ‘Empty Homes Levy’ to raise funds for affordable housing.
The Greens say the significant need for affordable housing in Wollongong could be partially addressed by a proposed new levy on rates for empty homes.
They say the statewide policy, which they would seek to have implemented by Wollongong City Council, would unlock empty homes currently held by investors for capital gains, while producing an income stream for councils to build local community housing.
The Illawarra Greens said the new proposed plan aims to free up local rental accommodation, and could raise between $4.5 million and $15 million per year for Wollongong Council to spend on community housing.
The 2016 Census data indicated there were 6330 unoccupied private dwellings in the Wollongong LGA.
The Greens say by creating an incentive for investors to rent out properties, councils will not only increase the number of homes available for tenants, they can also create a new revenue stream to build community housing.
The Greens’ proposal would enable local councils to place an additional levy on empty homes.
Councils would work in partnership with the state government to increase rates for homes that have been vacant for 12 months or more.
Special circumstances exceptions would be applied if the property is vacant due to death or illness.
The proposed Empty Homes Levy would be set by local councils with a maximum rate of triple the ordinary rate.
The Greens say they would give councils the right to decide if the levy should be applied in their local area.
Revenue raised from the levy would be placed in a trust fund that can only be used to build affordable community housing.
Mithra Cox, the Greens’ Lord Mayoral candidate for Wollongong for the September 9 council elections said “something is deeply wrong when eight per cent of homes in Wollongong LGA are unoccupied, but many families cannot find a place to live”. “We are pleased to be putting a local plan in place to help with housing affordability, and will work with other councillors to improve housing affordability in Wollongong,” Ms Cox said.
“Housing is too expensive, and local councils can be part of the solution.”
The Greens’ policy states that “the figures show that too often investors buy real estate and never plan to rent it out”. “Keeping a house empty maximises their flexibility to sell the property with ‘vacant possession’ whenever they think the market is right,” it states. “To deliver this plan we need more Greens elected to local councils.”