What’s the scam with Australia’s one million vacant properties? Renters may like to know

by Michael West | Mar 25, 2024 | What's the scam?

What’s the scam with Sydney Water, Melbourne Water and the electricity utilities declining to disclose Australian homes which are not connected to water or power?

Such information might give us a better idea of the high property vacancy rates in major cities due to landlords – many foreign – simply parking their cash in Australian property but not bothering to let.

The best numbers we could find are from the 2021 Census, which show there were over 1m dwellings unoccupied on Census night. This begs the question, why is this so during a housing crisis? And who owns these properties? Are they so wealthy they don’t bother leasing them?

Many may be legitimate holiday houses, but the likely answer is many are rich overseas investors parking their money here to diversify. There is an information vacuum – and a buying spree that has forced up prices – thanks to the failure of successive governments to introduce money laundering laws promised 16 years ago to track foreign capital.

When Harry Chemay reveals the third in his trilogy of housing crisis stories this week, this is one avenue for reform he is likely to identify. Today, he pings negative gearing in brilliant detail.

Housing Hunger Games: negative gearing catching fire

Michael West established Michael West Media in 2016 to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. West was formerly a journalist and editor with Fairfax newspapers, a columnist for News Corp and even, once, a stockbroker.

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