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WA Government dangles $5000 carrot to fill empty homes

The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA) has welcomed a new State Government scheme that will offer owners of empty homes $5000 if they make them available as a long-term rental. 

The Vacant Property Rental Incentive Scheme will offer payments to owners of up to 1000 vacant homes who are willing to provide a minimum 12-month lease to new, long-term tenants. 

The payments will be made to the property owner once the dwelling has been leased and is occupied.

To qualify for the payment, the property must have been vacant for at least six months and be self-contained, with its own bathroom, kitchen and toilet. 

The scheme is not for ancillary buildings, such as granny flats, or spare rooms. 

The property must also not have been used to receive a STRA Incentive Scheme payment and must be tenanted for the minimum 12-month lease.

If the lease is broken during that time, the property must be re-let on the long-term market within six weeks for the owner to avoid having to pay the grant money back.

Premier Roger Cook said the government would leave no stone unturned in its bid to boost housing supply.

“My government’s 2024-25 State Budget will fund a range of new measures to get more Western Australians into existing and new homes, including our Vacant Property Rental Incentive Scheme and continued support for building and construction apprentices to finish their training,” he said.

“Modelled on our successful Short-Term Rental Accommodation Incentive Scheme, this latest offer is designed to address the issue of much-needed properties sitting vacant and make them available for rent.”  

Treasurer Rita Saffioti said the government was continually looking to implement innovative policies to boost the rental pool and she encouraged eligible homeowners to take up the offer.

“This initiative has the potential to bring up to 1000 properties back onto the rental market that would otherwise be sitting vacant and unused and, most importantly, could support up to 1,000 Western Australian households to find a long-term rental,” she said. 

REIWA Chief Executive Officer Cath Hart welcomed the Cook Government’s Vacant Property Rental Incentive Scheme, noting it would provide more assistance to the tight rental market.

“We’ve seen the success of the Short-Term Rental Accommodation (STRA) Incentive Scheme, which has provided rental homes for 150 households so far, and we expect this new incentive to encourage some vacant property owners to make their homes available as much-needed long-term rentals,” Ms Hart said.

“With the vacancy rate at a record low of just 0.4 per cent, and listings for rent sitting at around 2000, any initiatives that will put a roof over more people’s heads are very welcome.

“We appreciate that the government hasn’t taken a punitive approach to this issue as not all vacant properties can be transitioned to the long-term rental market, for example they may be undergoing redevelopment or renovation, so punitive measures such taxes or vacancy fees would be unfair.”

In addition to the new incentive, the government has extended the STRA scheme to November 8 this year. 

It was due to end on May 8.

“Housing supply is the greatest challenge facing the market at the moment, and in assessing housing policy, the big question is whether it will increase the number of homes that can be built, bought or rented,” Ms Hart said.

“We acknowledge the extensive measures the government is using to address all aspects of boosting housing supply, from this new initiative and the extension of the short-stay scheme, to the additional investment in social housing and building and construction apprenticeship and training opportunities.”

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.