Families in Australia Are Living in Tents While Thousands of Homes Are Empty…Should Somebody Pay?

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It’s happening in Australia, is it happening in America, too? There are more than 80,000 homes across Queensland that have been left empty. There are calls for action to be taken against these owners who are not renting them out.

This inconsistency is happening as Australia is experiencing the worst rental crisis in its history. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, information indicates that 87,000 residential properties in Queensland were not being rented out and there are 577,000 more across the whole nation.

Michael Matusik, a property expert, said there should be new tax policies put into place as incentives or even penalties against owners to make the properties available.

He said that approximately 29% of investment properties are vacant. He further added that many of them are in desirable regions and some of the homes are just holiday homes or properties that are only occupied for part of the year.

A spokesperson for Mackay Regional Council said that it is hard to get solid figures because apartments sometimes have a large number of residential units or complexes, but they feed off of a single meter.

Adrian Schrinner, the mayor of Brisbane, responded to the housing crisis by announcing that there would be higher rates for landlords who turned their homes into mini-hotels by renting them out as an Airbnb.

“If owners have these properties in the market for a short term, that is their choice, but what they’ll be facing now is a 50 percent increase in their rates. We’re excluding (those that rent out) individual rooms. This is about people who rent out the whole house,” Schrinner said.

Aimee McVeigh, the CEO of the Queensland Council of Social Service, said that state funding did not keep pace with the housing crisis. She believes that the accelerated construction of social housing was urgent.

“We have more than 50,000 people on our social housing register. That has grown by almost 80 percent in the last four years,” McVeigh said.

She added that in the last 20 years, Queensland’s population has increased by 48% and they are expecting an additional 1.4 million people in the next decade.

For those international buyers who leave their properties vacant, there are now fee penalties in place, which are enforced by the government.

In 2021, the Australian Taxation Office collected $2.3 million in penalties. But foreign investors are not the only ones to blame for this crisis, according to Karl Fitzgerald, the director of advocacy for Prosper Australia. There were also “speculative vacancies” due to Australian investors that were curbing supply and pushing prices high. He believes that the government needs to reduce incentives for short-term profiteering from the housing.

The crisis is forcing some families to live in tents after becoming homeless. One family of four lost their rental when their landlord sold the property. Now, they look each night for a suitable place to camp in Bundaberg, Queensland. Sushannah and Tristan Taylor have a two-year-old and a six-month-old. Just last month, they were stable and secure in the long-term rental.

In the past year, rental costs in most cities have gone up by double-digit percentages, and experts are saying that it will only get worse.

There was a report by Anglicare Australia in April that found only five out of 45,000 rentals were affordable for a single person.

So, the tent cities are increasing while hundreds of thousands of homes are left vacant. Should the owners be penalized? It’s starting to happen in Australia and it could happen here in America as well.