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Vacancy levy

Rents and house prices are still rising, and thousands of Brisbanites can’t find secure, affordable housing. Meanwhile, business owners are struggling to afford high commercial rents, which also contributes to higher costs for goods and services.

Yet, thousands of Brisbane homes are sitting empty long-term. Between 5000 and 15000 existing homes in the Brisbane City Council area are sitting empty for more than six months, while thousands of people can’t find stable accommodation.

That’s why our Greens team of representatives want to introduce a vacancy levy on investment properties - including homes, apartments, commercial buildings and blocks of land - that are left empty for more than 6 months without a good reason. Our vacancy levy would not apply to people’s own homes while they’re away travelling.

If investors leave sites vacant, we want to dramatically increase their rates to encourage them to either rent their sites out, redevelop them as housing, or sell them to someone who will actually use them.

A vacancy levy would discourage properties being left empty long-term, which would:

  • release thousands of existing homes onto the rental and sales markets
  • catalyse the construction of more new housing on vacant land
  • put downward pressure on residential and commercial rents
  • put downward pressure on land values and the cost of buying housing

Meanwhile, business owners are struggling to afford high commercial rents, which also contributes to higher costs for goods and services. Yet, in almost every shopping mall and commercial precinct across Paddington Ward, you can find shops and restaurants whose owners would rather keep spaces empty than rent them out cheaply.

Empty shopfronts on suburban high streets hurt small businesses and hollow out our local centres. We can revitalise suburban shopping precincts by going after commercial landlords who keep shops vacant while demanding unreasonable rents.

By creating a significant financial disincentive for leaving land unutilised, we anticipate that this initiative would incentivise commercial landlords with properties available for lease to lower their asking rents in order to find tenants, making it easier for local businesses to afford to lease out premises. Any money raised by the vacancy levy would be allocated towards the acquisition, construction, and maintenance of crisis accommodation for survivors of domestic violence. However, in practice, we anticipate relatively little revenue would be collected via this vacancy levy, as most investors will choose to avoid the levy by selling their property or finding a tenant. The primary goal is to change investors’ behaviour, rather than to raise money.

We have a simple message for big developers wasting prime land by 'land banking' while they wait for prices to rise: "Build homes or sell to someone who will."

See the whole Greens Brisbane Policy on a Vacancy Levy here