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Greens will revive Perth CBD through rental initiative

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 18 Aug 2010
SiewertLudlum1a

Greens Senators for WA Rachel Siewert and Scott Ludlam will today announce a plan to revitalise WA city centres through a significant increase in affordable rental homes in properties sitting vacant.

“Our Convert to Rent proposal will give $21,000 to property owners to convert their vacant or unused spaces into rental units for low income households,” Senator Siewert said.

“An additional $5000 per dwelling will be provided to owners who make the home disability friendly.

“There are literally tens of thousands of empty properties in WA that could be converted into affordable rentals and many of these are in our city centres, where local governments, for example, the City of Perth, actually want to activate and inject life into these empty spaces,” Senator Siewert continued.

“There are nearly 49,000 vacant properties in Perth alone.

“At the same time, we have a massive waiting list of more than 24,000 households waiting for social housing, with the waiting list rising each year.

“We have got to address this demand for affordable housing – providing an incentive to property owners to convert their empty buildings is a smart way to do this,” Senator Siewert said.

Senator Ludlam said $115 million would fund 5000 conversions, including a minimum 15 per cent funding to be available for modifications suitable for people with a disability.

“A similar scheme has been running successfully in the city of London, Canada since 2008,” Senator Ludlam.

“It can easily be adopted here to create hundreds of homes in buildings that are currently unoccupied. It's a simple, sensible, sustainable, cost-effective way to make the most of housing opportunities.”

The Convert to Rent plan:
• Encourage landlords to provide dwellings to people on low-moderate incomes, and set appropriate levels of rents
• Provide incentives to property owners to convert their unused buildings/empty spaces above shops etc to affordable rental properties ($21,000 per dwelling maximum loan)
• Provide additional funding  of $5000 for buildings and spaces to be modified for people with a disability
• Set a 20 year caveat for the program and give the federal government first option to purchase the property in the event of a sale
• Cost: $115 million would fund 5000 conversions including a minimum 15% funding to be available for modifications suitable for people with a disability.

Perth Rental Facts:
• In just the last three years rent for a 2 bedroom unit in Perth has risen $100 a week (by 40%) from $250 to $350.
• In the last decade Perth rent for a 3 bedroom house has risen by $224 per week (by 126%) -  from $156 to $380 
• There are more than 191,000 vacant residential properties in WA, including 49,000 in Perth (ABS census).
• WA’s social housing, as a proportion of all housing stock, has fallen from eight per cent in 1991 to just four per cent now, lower than the national average of five per cent.
• WA has more than 24,000 households waiting for social housing, with the waiting list rising dramatically over the past five years from 12,779 in 2004 to 24,316 in 2010. With more than 400 additional applications a month, there could be 65,000 households on the waiting list by 2020.
• Approximately 60 per cent of households in housing stress live in the private rental market. (http://www.shelter.org.au/archive/rpt0911policyplatform-final.pdf)

Source:
Real Estate Institute of Australia, Market Facts. Figures are median weekly rent for Perth to Mach 2010 quarter.

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