Rental vacancy rates are at record lows across Queensland. The situation is so dire that many families have no choice but to sleep in cars or tents. Meanwhile, 87,000 homes across Queensland are sitting empty. Wealthy property investors are also turfing out long-term tenants to rent apartments on Airbnb as well as land banking sites perfect for new housing for years to profit on the unearned increase in value of land.
For many wealthy investors, they get far more money from rising property values than they do from rents. For decades, successive state and Federal governments have propped up a housing system that makes it profitable to leave a house empty rather than rent it out.
That’s why the Greens are proposing an Empty Homes Levy on investors who deliberately leave residential properties empty. By making it costly to leave a property empty, the Levy will put tens of thousands of homes back on the rental market.
The Empty Homes Levy will:
- Introduce a 5% levy on the value of any residential property that has been vacant for six months in a year.
- Introduce a 5% levy on the value of any undeveloped land left vacant for six months in a year if that land is suitable for building residential properties.
For example, an owner with an empty apartment worth $400,000 would have to pay an annual levy of $20,000. This would encourage the owner to find a tenant or sell that apartment to someone who will.
How else do the Greens plan to tackle the housing crisis?
Brisbane has seen the steepest annual rent rises on record, and our regions have near zero vacancy rates. And these massive rent hikes we’re seeing across Queensland aren’t just about covering costs for property investors: rents have increased at 3 times the rate of inflation. 57% of low-income houses are in unaffordable housing. With rental availability at an all-time low, renters have no choice but to bear the cost of a crisis created by the profiteering of banks and investors, or go homeless..
Putting an affordable and secure roof over every Queenslander’s head is more important than securing investment returns for property investors with multiple assets.
In 2022 I introduced the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation (Rent Freeze) Amendment Bill 2022. The Bill would have enacted an emergency Rent Freeze for two years followed by a 2% annual limit on how much rents can be increased.
Labor's response was to introduce a limit on how many times rent can be increased on a lease per year, from once every 6 months, to once every 12 months. Because the Speaker ruled that this was substantially the same as our Rent Freeze Bill, the Rent Freeze Bill was thrown out. BUt while landlords can now only raise the rent once per year, there's still no limit on how much they can raise it by. In fact, since the limit applied to existing leases, this created a loop hole for investors, incentivising them to change tenants every 6 months. We immediately began hearing from renters who were being evicted so their landlords could get new tenants and raise the rent. Not only did Labor's changes fail to stop investors hiking rents, it made the crisis even worse.
Rent freeze at a federal level
The Australian Greens are currently negotiating with Labor over their Housing Australia Future Fund. Labor's bill proposed
- a $10 billion dollar stock market gamble
- no guaranteed spending on housing
- $500 million maximum spend per year (and only if the fund made money — last year it would have lost money)
- no spending until 2024-2025
- spending on subsidising developer owned housing not building public housing
The current shortage of social and affordable housing in Australia is 640,000 homes and is due to grow by 75,000 homes in the next five years. While 62% of the over 8 million people who rent are already in financial stress. Labor’s entire plan, at best, will build 30,000 social and affordable homes over five years with $500 million a year. The Federal Government’s own expert housing body has said we need $15 billion of investment every year to tackle the housing crisis.
As a result of holding out for a better deal, the Greens have already secured
- an additional $2 billion in upfront investment
- a minimum $500 million a year in ongoing investment
But if Labor’s plan goes through now, without locking in greater investment every year and a national limits on rent increases, millions of people will be left behind and things will get much much worse. The Greens are calling on more money into public housing and for Labor to co-ordinate a national rent freeze by offering the states $1 billion to legislate accordingly.
In early 2023 I introduced the Planning (Inclusionary Zoning Strategy) Amendment Bill 2023. This bill would require developers to transfer 25% of new dwellings to the Department of Housing so that we can house not only our most vulnerable, but nurses, childcare workers, teachers, anyone who otherwise can't afford to live in the community they work contribute to.
Decades of government inaction has resulted in record developer profits but led us to a the point of crisis: skyrocketing rents and a shortage of housing. Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning is a cost of doing business which boosts the supply of public housing but doesn't slow down building or increase prices. This is because land values are heavily tied to developer profits. As developer profits go up, land values follow. Similarly, when developer costs go up, land values fall. Because developers seek to maintain the same level of profitability, they pay simply less for land after Inclusionary Zoning is introduced. In this way the cost of new public housing is borne by land bankers who seek to profit from unearned increases in the value of land over time.
The State Development and Regional Industries Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the Bill.