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Office occupancy rates call for CBD recovery

Lockdowns on the East Coast are beginning to wind back, prompting calls for workers and businesses to return to the hard-hit CBDs.

The Property Council of Australia’s latest monthly office survey of building owners and managers shows that Sydney’s occupancy rate in the CBD remains at only four per cent of pre-COVID levels.

Prior to the onset of COVID, occupancy levels in Sydney were around 90 per cent.

The other states and territories in the midst of lockdowns are currently experiencing similar falls in the level of occupancy, with Canberra at eight per cent and Melbourne slipping to six per cent from seven per cent the previous month.

Elsewhere in Australia, Brisbane is sitting at 51 per cent occupancy, Adelaide is at 64 per cent, Perth at 76 per cent, and Hobart is at 89 per cent, while Darwin’s occupancy rate also rose to 89 per cent.

With restrictions appear on the verge of easing in Sydney, the calls are growing for people to come back to the CBDs along the East Coast.

NSW Property Council Executive Director Luke Achterstraat said the time for CBD reactivation and recovery was now.

“The lockdowns are fortunately coming to an end and we look forward to healing the wounds from more than 100 days of lockdown,” Mr Achterstraat said.

“We have to get our recovery right. Our monthly survey of office building owners and managers finds occupancy level of Sydney’s CBD remains at only 4 per cent of pre-COVID levels.

“Relaunching our CBDs requires a concentrated effort from all levels of government working together with business owners and employers to ensure we bounce back to pre-pandemic levels.”

Mr Achterstraat said that while the recovery would take time, he expects people to begin to return in the months ahead.

“We understand the renewal won’t happen overnight, with our results displaying that 80 per cent of our survey responders predicting they will see material increase in occupancy levels in three months or longer,” he said.

“Between now and Christmas, our collective role is to show leadership in the return to office and build confidence in the return to CBD, through investment initiatives such as the Cahill Expressway High Line activity, and the State Government $50 million investment in Friday CBD dining vouchers.

“Through knowing that restrictions are on their way out, we can expect a sharp rise in office occupancy levels and overall CBD market confidence.”

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a freelance journalist specialising in finance and real estate.