Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Time to tax ghost houses

Another interesting result from the census: Auckland - which has high rates of homelessness - has 40,000 empty houses

The high number of vacant properties in Auckland's CBD is being blamed on investors who are holding on to "lock-and-leave" apartments despite chronic housing shortages in the city.

The 2018 census showed that the number of vacant Auckland houses had risen 18 per cent to 40,000. That compares to a 0.1 per cent increase in the previous census period.


[Auckland Council chief economist David Norman said] "We also know apartments are more popular among investors," he said. "And it's possible that part of that is genuinely a bigger share of apartments bought as investments that aren't being rented out to tenants."

Auckland Councillor Chris Darby said he knew of several "lock-and-leave" apartments in the city, also known as "ghost houses".

The 2013 census found there were over 20,000 homeless people in Auckland, most temporarily sharing dwellings. Given the housing bubble and rising rents, that number is almost certainly higher now. Meanwhile, at standard household sizes, those 40,000 empty houses could provide homes for over a hundred thousand people.

...which shows that our housing crisis is a distribution crisis. The rich hoard houses, while the poor are left homeless. As for the solution, its obvious: we should follow Vancouver's example and tax those empty houses, to provide an incentive for them to be rented out or sold to someone who will live in them. Houses should be homes, not investments.