Focusing on the more than one million homes described as “vacant” on Census night will not help alleviate Australia’s rental crisis, according to economist Stephen Koukoulas.
He says the vast bulk of them were empty for a good reason and it’s not realistic to say they should be made available for tenants.
“It is assumed by some people hoping to tackle the housing shortage, high house prices, oppressive rents and homelessness, that at least some of these houses could somehow be utilised to meet these demands,” he says.
“Unfortunately, such thinking is a flight of fantasy.”
Data from SGC Economics & Planning research shows the main reason houses are recorded as vacant at the Census is because the usual occupier was away from home.
“It is as simple as that for a large proportion of vacant houses,” Koukoulas says.
Previous research shows that in 2016, 43.6% of the homes identified as vacant on Census night were empty because the usual occupants were on holiday, away on business, out for the night, at their holiday house, in hospital or care, or the house was for sale or undergoing renovation.
“Quite clearly, these were not available for occupation even though they were part of the overall dwelling supply,” he says.