Queensland is experiencing its worst rental crisis in history, yet about 87,000 homes are sitting empty across the state.
The shocking number is prompting calls of harsh penalties for homeowners who aren’t renting their properties out.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics also show that nationally, the number of unused houses — that is, homes that are not the owners’ primary residence or being rented to others — is 577,000.
A spokeswoman for the ABS told the Courier Mail that “the data includes properties used for other purposes, such as holiday homes, second residences, dwellings occupied rent-free by family members etc”.
Further to those numbers, Queensland’s biggest water provider, Urban Utilities, shared exclusive data with The Courier Mail that points to 19,500 homes across lower South East Queensland having their water connected, but with water usage so low that it suggested no one had been living there for months.
Of the 590,000 residential properties Urban Utilities provides water to around Brisbane, Ipswich, Somerset, Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley, only 3.3 per cent had low or no water consumption over the final three months of 2021.
“Properties may have no or low water usage for a range of reasons including the use of water tanks instead of town water supply, residents could be away from home, or the property could be vacant or uninhabitable,”spokeswoman Michelle Cull said.
Similar low water usage can be seen on a significant number of houses around Noosa, the Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay — although again water companies have clarified that this doesn’t necessarily mean the property is vacant.
When it comes to empty apartments, it’s almost impossible to gauge as so many share a water meter with the entire building.
State in crisis
In March, single mum-of-three Kaylie Aitken told news.com.au she had been told the lease for her townhouse in Griffin, Queensland, would end with six weeks notice.
Two weeks later, she had racked up more than 20 rejected rental applications, and was making emergency plans to cram her children into her mother’s granny flat or stay with friends.
“I don’t know what else to do, I’m on the verge of a mental break down and my kids can see it,” she said at the time. “They also cry every night, scared of what is going to happen to us,”
Last month, a young family documented their experience living in a tent with a baby and a toddler after their landlord decided to sell their home, and finding they had been priced out of the regional town they lived in.
Sushannah Taylor said she and her young family had been hopping around campsites in Bundaberg after calls to homeless shelters proved fruitless, as they were all full.
Real Estate Institute of Queensland CEO Antonia Mercorella told the ABC the state’s rental market was the worst on record, with vacancy rates below one per cent “across all corners of the state”.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.
Paying the price
Having such a huge number of houses being wasted despite a crisis is prompting professionals to call for tax penalties on homeowners who don’t rent out their extra properties.
Speaking to The Courier Mail, Veteran property expert Michael Matusik said “around 29 per cent of investment properties are not rented out. They are sitting there vacant”.
Brisbane’s Mayor, Adrian Schrinner, already promised “significantly higher rates” for landlords who “turned homes into mini hotels” instead of renting them out to long-term tenants.
Article source: www.news.com.au