A Greens councillor's idea to give councils the power to implement a vacant home tax has been lambasted by other councillors on Monday night.
Some councillors criticised Cr Cath Blakey for proposing that councils seek permission to implement a tax because that was the responsibility of the state government.
Other councillors said the move would encroach on individuals' rights and others claimed it was an attempt at political grandstanding ahead of the state election.
Cr Blakey unsuccessfully implored her fellow councillors to support a motion which would ask the council to write to state ministers and opposition counterparts to request an empty home levy be implemented for local governments to address housing affordability.
An Empty Homes Levy aims to unlock empty homes currently held by investors for capital gains.
The levy creates an incentive for investors to rent out properties, while also producing a recurrent income stream to fund local community housing to tackle issues of affordability, supply and homelessness.
"I don't pretend that an empty home levy alone will fix affordability but for every home that goes from being vacant to occupied makes a lot of difference to those who live there," she said.
"If NSW government were to bring in an empty home levy, we should demand autonomy for local councils to adapt it to our local housing conditions."
Cr Blakey said about half of the 6330 unoccupied private dwellings in the Wollongong LGA, as indicated in the 2016 Census, were empty long term.
Under similar schemes, councils would partner with the state government to ensure that the additional levy is applied to residential properties that have been vacant for a considerable period of time. There would be exemptions if a property is vacant due to reasons such as death or illness, or under renovation.
The Victorian Government introduced a similar policy.
Nearly all councillors agreed the local governments were not responsible for imposing a tax.
"This is quite simply a matter for state government and not local government. We do not have jurisdiction over this issue," Cr Jenelle Rimmer said.
"When I first saw this motion I thought Cr Blakey was giving a platform to her state candidates to speak on the issue."
"This is a waste of time, resources and money for council staff," Cr Cameron Walters said. "This policy is solely on state parliament. It is a political stunt and a state stunt."
Cr Vicky King commended Cr Blakey for the intention of the motion but also raised concerns.
"As a landlord in this city - who at the moment has two empty properties because I can't find tenants who can afford to pay for them even though they are at the bottom end of the market - I don't want to be punished for a vacant home levy because I haven't been able to find someone who can rent the home for $300 a week," she said.
"We should lobby the state government to bring in policies or to increase the market of affordable housing."
Cr Leigh Colacino raised fears about who would be slugged with the levy.
He said there was potential for grey nomads - who had for example a rental property that was unoccupied, and who were taking a holiday for more than six months - would be slapped with a vacant housing levy.
Cr Colacino also said an investment property owner could be hit with the levy if they were trying to make repairs to their property after it had been damaged by "inconsiderate renters".
"It is an insult to think that we, a local council, are considering giving ourselves a right to impose new taxes," he said.
Cr Dom Figliomeni said the idea was a "revenue raiser" and the costs and effectiveness of the policy were "unknown".
"In Wollongong...supply is not the issue. Cost is the issue. A levy will not in any way increase the availability," he said.
The motion was voted down at the council meeting.