Tenants union calls for empty home levy in Tasmania

The Tenants Union of Tasmania has called for an empty home levy after discovering almost 1000 homes were left empty in the state last year.

While the average renter is paying about $7000 more a year to rent than they were five years ago, 916 properties were uninhabited in Tasmania in 2023, according to Mercury.

The union released TasWater figures, which showed 445 homes were empty in Launceston, 291 were vacant in Hobart and 180 were uninhabited in Glenorchy.

Union principal solicitor Ben Bartl said the data also revealed that over the past six years, 629 homes in Tasmania had been left empty for three or more consecutive years, including 209 in Hobart, 312 in Launceston and 108 in Glenorchy.

He said political parties needed to ensure empty homes could be used to ease the rental crisis and an empty home levy would prompt investors to put their homes on the long-term rental market.

“Homes are sitting empty and we need to do more than just promote policies to build new homes which take years and don’t necessarily increase supply for renters,” he told the Mercury.

“Homes sitting empty in an affordable housing crisis is a travesty with academic studies having found that an extra 65 properties available for rent in Hobart and 36 in Glenorchy would raise the vacancy rate by one per cent resulting in downward pressure on rents.”

Mr Bartl said an empty home levy similar to that adopted in Melbourne or Vancouver, in Canada, would help prevent property owners from letting them sit empty.

“In Vancouver for example, an empty homes levy has seen the number of empty homes drop by 36 per cent and more than $115m raised for social housing,” he said.

In Victoria, a vacant residential land tax is applied to any residential premises located in 16 inner-city and middle-ring council areas left empty for at least six months.

Empty homes are charged one per cent of their value.

Mr Bartl said Hobart’s vacancy rate was currently one per cent.

“In its Tasmanian Housing Strategy released several months ago, the State Government acknowledged that a vacancy rate of three per cent would ‘help to stabilise rents and ultimately reduce pressure on household budgets’,” he said.

“The median Tasmanian rental household was paying $311 per week five years ago and today they are paying $445 per week which is a $134 per week increase.”

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