Time for an Empty Homes Tax

By   /   April 27, 2018  /   9 Comments

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The Christchurch Progressive Network has written to Housing Minister Phil Twyford urging the government to consider implementing an Empty Homes Tax similar to the tax recently introduced in Vancouver, Canada.

The Christchurch Progressive Network has written to Housing Minister Phil Twyford urging the government to consider implementing an Empty Homes Tax similar to the tax recently introduced in Vancouver, Canada.

With winter approaching and emergency houses full we desperately need more houses for tenants and families on low and middle incomes.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence of thousands of houses – in some cases whole streets –  of empty homes. Many of these homes are being held for capital gains (New Zealand has no effective Capital Gains Tax) and some are only rented over summer as airbnb accommodation.

The absence of these houses from the market is helping maintain high houses prices and high rents across the country.

In response to the issue of empty homes in Auckland in 2013 Phil Twyford said:

“It’s madness, and says a lot about the housing crisis, that we’ve got thousands of homes deliberately left vacant by their owners while in South Auckland there are kids sleeping under bushes.”

It’s time for Phil Twyford to put his money where his mouth is.

An Empty Homes Tax would mean large numbers of our tens of thousands of “ghost” homes would be available to rent at a time when homes are desperately needed.

In Vancouver residential property owners submit an annual property tax declaration with the Empty Homes Tax set at 1% of the property value if the home has been unoccupied for more than four months of the previous year. Exemptions apply for houses being built or houses which are sold during the year.

More details of the Vancouver Empty Homes Tax are here:

It should not be an issue left to the government’s Tax Working Group to consider. We need our empty homes available for accommodation this winter.


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  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    Agreed John;

    As empty homes only breeds homelessness and greed from “speculative actions to starve the market and drive the cost of housing up artificially!!!!!

    So tax these bastards.

  2. Kevin Brown says:

    Hear hear. How come labour Coalition is so lax at doing all these obvious corrections that are desperately needed, to put right all the terrible things that we’re done or allowed to happen under the extreme right wing corporate fascist ex government.
    You could almost believe that labour are just national light and are controlled by the same ‘levers and powers that be’ that control natz.

  3. Michal says:

    Of course many Labour MPs have rentals, they are part of the problem. Rent to own should be a serious option.

  4. Andrew says:

    So how will you define an ’empty home’ in law?

    And how do you intend to police this new law?

  5. Marc says:

    An interesting proposal, but it may be hard to implement, as people owning homes and not occupying them, also not letting them, may find all kinds of excuses for not doing so.

    Some may simply say, I let a relative of friend stay there, looking after it, whether it is so or not, how would you police it?

    Re the government and urgently needed reforms, I was dismayed at Carmel Sepuloni on Newshub Nation this morning, talking about yet another ‘expert’ group to look at a review of the welfare system.

    We have had enough reports and evidence, I thought, why dodge the hard decisions, and let some working groups sit and discuss things, release ambiguous reports, opening back doors again, to do nothing much in the end?

    Surely there must be enough consensus within the coalition and with the Greens to get some reviews and changes done right now.

    • savenz says:

      ‘I was dismayed at Carmel Sepuloni on Newshub Nation this morning, talking about yet another ‘expert’ group to look at a review of the welfare system.’

      One of the problems they face is that so many people now are on such low wages – a 40 hour week only gives you $660 less taxes with the new minimum wages. That’s ok if you are single, but once you have children you can’t easily survive on that.

      I know people who split up once having a child because you can then get $550 from WINZ plus $660 less taxes for the wages, because working for families will top you up about $200 so you are $300 better off split up with WINZ.

      The government has a strategy through WFF to try to top up low wages but is a sustainable long term to keep doing that, especially as so many people are coming into NZ on low wages or being asset rich and with little means to get a job and having children who also need houses. When it was just a static population WFF could be managed and benefits, but now, the other day some recent migrant was having 3 different babies at the same time to three different women. Immigration were fine about it, because apparently he has built a retirement village! Not hard to see that this as a house of cards and not sustainable.

      Hah, maybe our building efforts could be better put to use, by not having every builder working on luxury hotels, private retirement villages, luxury apartments with high body corporate levels, extending that house to 300m2 or what have you. The cheaper places for first home buyers seem to be leaking and not fit for standard aka Tauranga and Albany in Auckland, which are condemned before they are moved into.

      We are a basket case people! Government need to go back to the beginning and unravel this mess, adding more and more rules while not addressing the source of the problems aka too many people for the amount of houses due to migration and work permits and a focus on bums on seats education , people can’t afford the houses they are building, tradies are working on luxury side not the cheap side of houses and much of the work is substandard on the cheaper builds, the war on P failed and tens of thousands of state and private houses are not able to be lived in, as well as the leaky building putting many houses out of action for remedial work.

      If you have people going around and contaminating houses with P, for example since they were kicked out of the state house, building houses that need remedial work or are just to expensive while still bringing more and more people in on low wages or to build stuff for the luxury market… the Ponzi scheme continues.

      Add to that the extreme cost of living in Auckland. For example it costs a family of 4, $34 to go 2 stages return on the bus on a cash fare and takes 1.5 hours (10 minutes each way in car and petrol costs $5 in petrol) or you can ‘invest’ $40 for 4 HOP cards to get it down… everything in this country has become dysfunctional, a storm puts out power for 4 days and the trees being blamed are partly because the power company refuses to maintain trees it being more efficient to make millions of people without cherry pickers or an electricity degree at their disposal to maintain them individually so that Vector does not have that burden… the list of neoliberal policy goes on.

      So it’s not just housing to solve, it’s the whole system under Rogernomics…. government keep wanting reports because the system is a mess and they don’t know what they can easily do about it. It’s been designed to be a complicated mess, so that nobody sorts it out and the ideas like taxing empty houses, are often very unpopular with the majority of people.

      Government are adding to our mess by signing TPPA as well as PPP’s for transport, they know TPPA will lose jobs and they know PPP’s cost more, but the ideology continues…

  6. Mjolnir says:

    The great flaw in “inalienable property rights” – property owners sitting on empty houses while families live in cars and garages.

    Maybe it’s time to use the Public Works Act to seize houses empty for six months (without good reason) and add to Hoousing NZ stock.

  7. Jack Ramaka says:

    A lot of Asian $’s parked in NZ Real Estate over the passed 30 years NZ is seen as a safe haven which is politically stable. Not a bad place to live if you have plenty of pingers $’s.