Would you support a ‘vacancy’ tax if it went towards Australia’s social housing crisis?

Plans are afoot to make housing more affordable and raise money for social housing programs by taxing homes left vacant
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Plans are afoot to make housing more affordable and raise money for social housing programs by taxing homes left vacant for 12 months, according to charity groups.

Prosper Australia’s 2015 Speculative Vacancies report suggested almost 25,000 dwellings were ‘demonstrably unoccupied’ in Melbourne in 2014.

Catherine Cashmore of Prosper Australia says the idea started as a broad-based land tax to replace other taxes. The idea is about taxing vacant housing in an effort to encourage that housing to be put to use, so that it doesn’t sit their with owners speculating on capital gains rather than trying to get rental income out of their property.

Cashmore says the report Prosper Australia puts together is based on water usage. The organisation collects water data from the three main water providers in Melbourne and it looks at housing that is reporting an abnormally low water measurement.

Tony Keenan, CEO of Launch Housing — an independent Melbourne-based community organisation working towards ending homelessness — has called for governments to implement a tax on homes left vacant for more than 12 months.

Keenan says there is a housing crisis in Melbourne and those unoccupied homes should be available on the rental market. He said any proceeds from a vacancy tax could be used to fund social housing initiatives.

He said Launch Housing’s South Melbourne service was working with a motel “full of families and kids” who had escaped family violence.

“None of those kids are in school,” Keenan told 774 ABC Melbourne.

“But the social harm that’s caused by not being able to house families quickly is immense.

“We think it’s quite reasonable to say: ‘Look, if you’ve got an investment property, rent it. If not, contribute to the social harm you are causing by not renting it’.”

But not everyone agrees.

Radio broadcaster Steve Price, who regularly panels on The Project, says, “We’ve got enough government interference in our lives and enough taxation without someone coming up with a dodgy idea like that.”

In discussion with The Project host Carrie Bickmore, who suggested that the idea of a tax was made more appealing because the monies raised would be going to social housing, Price said the argument could also be extended to include the homeless.

It’s a complicated issue, but one worth discussing.

What do you think? Would you support a vacancy tax to fund affordable housing?

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