Nerida Conisbee: Australia’s ghost town suburbs

Holiday homes were hot property during the pandemic, fuelled by an inability to travel internationally, high savings rates and very low mortgage rates.

This, however, has become a problem and we are seeing a shortage of rental properties as a result.

In the most recent Census, there were 1.04 million homes unoccupied, or around 10 per cent of all Australian homes.

Putting at least some of these homes on to the rental market would calm the high levels of rental growth that is currently occurring.

In regional Victoria, the level of vacancy was likely elevated by severe restrictions of movement put in place during extended lockdowns.

Nevertheless, Sandy Point tops the list as having the most vacant homes, reflecting a high number of holiday homes in this suburb.

Coming in second was Carrickalinga, another popular holiday destination in South Australia.

Third was Smiths Beach, also in regional Victoria.

In our capital cities, a similar trend is evident. Portsea on the Mornington Peninsula had around two-thirds of homes vacant on Census night.

In Brisbane, Point Lookout made the top 10 list while Pearl Beach on Sydney’s Central Coast also appeared.



With many holiday destinations struggling with a shortage of rental properties for long-term residents, it is likely that restrictions on owning holiday homes will increase over time.

Most recently, the city of Busselton in Western Australia’s south-west imposed the harshest restrictions on owners of short-term rental accommodation in Australia, including curfews for guests and restrictions on pets.

A third stage of restrictions looks set to ban holiday homes in some residential areas.

If rental affordability continues to deteriorate, it is likely more local councils will follow.

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Nerida Conisbee

Nerida Conisbee is the Chief Economist at Ray White.