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Queensland rental crisis: vacancies dip, social housing queue soars

Queensland’s vacancy rate has continued to fall, while the state’s social housing waiting list has climbed to 43,000.

According to data from the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, the state’s vacancy rate dipped slightly in the December quarter to 0.9 per cent, down from 1 per cent in the September quarter

The Residential Vacancy Rate Report showed that of the 50 local government areas (LGAs) and sub regions covered analysed, 22 tightened, 13 remained unchanged, and 15 relaxed (but not materially).

The vast majority of markets remained well within what the REIQ classifies as a ‘tight’ market, with vacancy rates up to 2.5 per cent, and more than half were 1 per cent or lower.

The dip in the vacancy rate comes as property managers across the state encounter sustained demand for private rentals, with the social housing waiting list up to 43,000 Queenslanders in the September 2023 quarter. 

REIQ Chief Executive Officer Antonia Mercorella said rental properties were still too thin on the ground to provide a comfortable choice for Queensland’s large rental population.

“What we’ve seen over the course of the year, is a rental property pool that’s insufficient and under incredible strain,” Ms Mercorella said.

“It’s not necessarily that rentals are impossible to find everywhere in our state, it’s the imbalance between the sheer demand and shortage of supply of rentals at certain price points and locations that’s out of kilter.

“Many are finding it’s a lot less hassle to renew their existing lease than to risk re-entering the fast-moving market, especially if they are attached to their area.”

Ms Mercorella said the REIQ recognised these were particularly tough conditions for the most vulnerable in the community.

“It’s very concerning that families in need are being forced to join the queues in the private rental market because there’s no social housing available to them and no hope on the near horizon of getting to the top of the waitlist,” she said.

“A fair proportion of the distress we are seeing can be attributed to inadequate social housing stock.

“In the year to September 2023, only 269 social houses were completed in Queensland, and we know the social housing waitlist continues to grow.

“While we welcome initiatives such as the purchase of a hotel in South Brisbane to provide housing to those in need, the built-up demand is clearly far greater than the rate of social housing delivery.”

The tightest market

The unwanted title of tightest rental market in Queensland was shared by the top and tail of the state – Cook Shire in the north and Goondiwindi in the south – with both recording a vacancy rate of zero.

Not far behind was Banana (0.2 per cent), and Southern Downs, Maranoa, Tablelands, and Charters Towers (all at 0.3 per cent). 

South Burnett and Mareeba both had 0.5 per cent vacancies and the Central Highlands and Maryborough hit 0.6 per cent.

The healthiest market

A stark outlier to the rest of regional Queensland, a ‘healthy’ rate of 2.7 per cent was seen in Mount Isa, making it one of the most balanced markets in the state.

The Cassowary Coast (1.6 per cent), Isaac (1.4 per cent) and Whitsunday (also 1.4 per cent) all improved over the quarter, but remained in tight territory. 

All other areas that relaxed over the quarter only did so ever-so-slightly by 01 to 0.2 per cent.

Greater Brisbane 

Much of the Greater Brisbane area hovered around the 1 per cent vacancy mark, including Brisbane LGA (1.1 per cent), Ipswich (1 per cent), Logan (1.2 per cent), Caboolture (1.1 per cent), Pine Rivers (1 per cent), and Redland (1 per cent). 

Moreton Bay (0.8 per cent) and Redland’s Mainland (0.7 per cent) were tighter still, while Redcliffe had the lowest rate in the region at 0.5 per cent.

Regional centres

Gladstone experienced the biggest quarter-to-quarter drop down to 1.1 percent, but still maintained the highest rate of vacancy compared to Townsville (1 per cent), Rockhampton (steady at 0.9 per cent) and Livingstone (held at 1 per cent), Bundaberg (down to 0.9 per cent), Toowoomba (0.7 per cent), and Mackay (0.6 per cent). 

Cairns remained unchanged at 0.9 per cent, while Fraser Coast (0.7 per cent), and Hervey Bay (0.8 per cent) dipped slightly.

With summer approaching, a few coastal markets’ vacancy rates retracted 0.5 per cent, including Sunshine Coast (0.8 per cent), Hinterland (0.9 per cent), Caloundra Coast (0.7 per cent), and Maroochy Coast (0.9 per cent). 

The Gold Coast (0.9 per cent) also tightened 0.3 per cent.

Despite Noosa having more vacancies than other surrounding coastal markets at 1.4 percent, this rate actually represents the area’s tightest vacancy rate reached in 2023.

Yet again, the only ‘weak’ market in Queensland was seen in Redland’s Bay Islands (including North Stradbroke, Russell, Macleay, Karragarra, Lamb, Coochiemudlo) at 5.7 per cent.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.