The Australian Greens have called for the Government to take advantage of stagnant property prices and pursue a national plan to create more affordable housing.
The Greens housing spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam said owners of vacant or otherwise unused residential and commercial properties should be encouraged to put their assets to good use.
"The ABS quarterly index has shown capital city house prices virtually unchanged over the September quarter. The owners of unused residential properties would find incentives to convert to rent particularly attractive now," he said. "Speculators waiting for big profits will be waiting for a while. Now is the right time for a Convert To Rent incentive package."
Senator Ludlam said The Greens plan will provide financial assistance to property owners to help convert vacant or unused space into rental units to provide affordable housing to low income households.
"In Perth, for example, almost 50,000 residential properties are vacant but there are about 25,000 households on the public housing waiting list," he said. "Rental affordability has reached crisis point in Australia. Just this year the National Housing Supply Council identified a gap of 493,000 affordable and available rental properties across Australia".
"Our plan will increase the amount of affordable rental housing, increase the availability of private rental accommodation and revitalise local neighbourhoods and economies," said Senator Ludlam. "In 2006, there were over 167,000 unoccupied buildings, residential and commercial, in Melbourne and Sydney alone. Convert to Rent will encourage landlords to provide dwellings to people on low-moderate incomes, and set rents accordingly."
The financial assistance offered by the program is a fully forgivable loan to a maximum of $21,000 which does not have to be repaid if the owner adheres to the conditions of the program. The property needs to be made suitable for living and rented out to means-tested low-medium income tenants at no more than 75 percent of the market rent. An additional $5000 can be allocated for buildings that are modified for people with a disability.