The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 Census has highlighted that the housing affordability crisis hasn’t abated despite Australia’s construction boom. Australians are still struggling to become home-owners despite so many dwellings sitting unoccupied.
The Census showed 11.2 per cent of the nation's housing stock is unoccupied, up from 10.7 per cent in the last five years. In Sydney, this figure drops to 7.7 per cent, up from 7.2 per cent in 2011. In Melbourne, 9.6 per cent of properties are unoccupied, which is up from 9 per cent.
A recent study by international housing affordability think tank Demographia, has found that Sydney is the second most unaffordable major city in the world in terms of housing, followed closely by Melbourne, which came in at number six.
With the average house in Sydney costing over a million Aussie dollars, Australia’s housing affordability is now rated the third-worst in the world, just behind Hong Kong and New Zealand.
In Australia’s major cities, undersupply is not the issue. Instead, it’s affordability and a lack of vacant properties on the market.
One major contributing factor to this trend is overseas property investors, who are increasingly buying off-the-plan apartments that sit empty, as a store of wealth.
In its May budget, the Federal Government has cracked down on this, introducing an annual vacancy charge on new foreign owners where the property is not occupied or available on the rental market for at least six months each year.
According to Sky News, this could see foreigners slogged for as much as $5,000 per property if they leave their house or apartment empty.
In addition, a 50 per cent foreign ownership cap has been placed on new developments. This means that at least half of the total number of properties within new developments have to be sold to local buyers.
Stronger Trend in Regional Australia
Australia’s capital cities aren’t the only ones that are being impacted by unoccupied dwellings, with areas in regional Australia becoming ghost towns.
In Port Hedland, a shocking 33.7 per cent of homes are vacant. This is a massive jump from 2011, where the vacancy rate was previously at 18.73 per cent.
Regional Queensland in particular has been significantly impacted by a lack of employment opportunities and growth in the area.
Gladstone, in North East Queensland, saw house prices sky rocket by 40 to 50 per cent and rental vacancies drop during the construction of Curtis Island's three $80 billion dollar LNG export plants, which lured thousands to the region for work and investments in 2011.
Now, just six years later, almost one in five homes in the region are empty.