A charity housing provider has put forward a proposal to tax properties that are left vacant for 12 months or longer.
The proposal for the tax on vacant properties was put forward by Launch Housing in order to assist families fleeing domestic violence.
Launch Housing chief executive Tony Keenan said the tax would have the dual effects of raising funds to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence while increasing the number of properties available on the market.
“Research indicates there could be between 22,000 and 55,000 vacant properties in Melbourne. However, last year alone, more than 1,000 family violence victims missed out on housing support because there are simply not enough houses available,” Mr Keenan said.
“It seems absurd that thousands of perfectly good properties sit empty, while Melbourne is in the middle of a housing crisis. We want to quickly move women and children into safe accommodation, but we don’t have access to the houses.”
Mr Keenan said the current shortage of rental properties is forcing Launch Housing to rely on motels and other transient accommodation for families, which can compound the trauma for victims.
“A vacancy tax will raise money needed to support these families as well as encouraging investors to make their properties available,” he said.
The Property Council believes the scheme, which is estimated to generate $78 million annually, would break the state government’s pre-election promise not to introduce new taxes.
Asher Judah, Victorian deputy executive director for the Property Council, said that while the cause is worthy, another tax on the property sector is not the answer, particularly since the industry pays more than 50 per cent of state taxes.
“The government should rule out this flawed idea immediately,” Mr Judah said.
[Related: Domestic violence broadens PM duty of care]