Even though there is an acute housing shortage in many New Zealand regions, the latest Census shows around 95,000 homes are left vacant by their owners throughout the country.
Census figures are useful because they show trends over time, but they can largely overstate the actual number of long-term vacant habitable properties because they include temporarily empty dwellings. These include holiday homes, properties undergoing renovations or homes that are in-between tenancies.
The Government has contracted the Wise Group to run a $500,000 study to help define the "empty home" in NZ context and determine whether such properties can be used to increase a housing stock and re-enter the housing supply. The main focus of the study and the location to test initiatives will be Hamilton.
The land-banking is a complicated issue. However, public awareness of unused homes has been growing globally, with some countries introducing an empty homes tax to encourage more efficient use of a scarce housing resource. For example, when the empty homes tax was introduced in Vancouver, Canada, to relieve pressure on the red-hot housing market, the city saw a reduction in vacant properties. The Government was also able to raise millions to fund affordable housing projects.
The Empty Homes study is the first of its kind in New Zealand, created to shine some light on the subject.
Is the number of under-utilised properties in NZ substantial enough to make a difference on housing supply? Will the possible marginal increase in rental inventory be enough to assist those struggling to find affordable accommodation? Hopefully, this research will be able to provide some answers.
If you own a property that's empty - either some of the time or all of the time - the Wise Group is encouraging property owners to share their thoughts in a short, anonymous survey.
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