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NSW has more than 40,000 unused ‘ghost homes’

In the midst of the escalating NSW housing crisis, startling figures have emerged, revealing a vast number of ‘ghost homes’ lying unused across the state.

According to recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are more than 43,000 inactive properties, including 22,000 in Sydney alone, exacerbating the shortage of affordable housing for the state’s residents.

The discovery highlights significant underuse of housing resources at a time when NSW faces a desperate need for more homes.

The data, part of a comprehensive multi-agency data integration project, identified several hotspots for vacant properties, with the state electorate of Sydney topping the list with 1757 unused dwellings, according to The Daily Telegraph.

This is closely followed by Heffron and Parramatta, which reported 1201 and 1081 vacant homes, respectively.

Professor Nicole Gurran, an urban planner and policy analyst from the University of Sydney, emphasised the distorted nature of the housing market, noting that the issue is not a lack of housing but an accessibility problem for those with lower incomes.

“This data really shows that we don’t have a housing shortage, we have a shortage of affordable homes and a distorted distribution of housing,” she stated, highlighting the plight of individuals priced out of the market by those purchasing secondary or tertiary homes.

Echoing these concerns, social demographer Mark McCrindle said the numbers were both surprising and indicative of a deeper issue within the state’s housing market.

“That figure of 43,000 inactive dwellings is surprising, as is communities with the highest numbers of vacant homes,” Mr McCrindle said.

He said he was particularly surprised that the vacant homes were not holiday homes and included Sydney’s CBD.

The ABS’s findings, which also incorporated data from the 2021 Census and various government agencies, underscore a growing vacancy issue linked to factors like short-term holiday rentals, investment properties, and the lag in making newly-completed homes available to the market.

These revelations come at a time when rental vacancy rates in Sydney have plummeted to 1.1 per cent, according to SQM Research, indicating a tight squeeze for those seeking rental accommodation.

Further complicating the housing dilemma, the NSW Parliamentary Research Team has projected a need for an additional 161,300 dwellings by 2027 to keep pace with population growth, a target that seems increasingly unattainable given current construction rates.

The state’s response, including a review of the short-term rental accommodation framework, aims to address these challenges, though many newly-completed dwellings are still awaiting occupancy certificates before they can be inhabited.

This situation points to a critical need for more effective government intervention and policy reform to unlock the potential of the ‘ghost homes’ and alleviate the housing crisis gripping NSW.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.