30,000 empty homes in Auckland: Is it time to tax the owners?

First@Five 07/05/2018

There are calls for the Government to bring in an empty home tax with tens of thousands of unused properties around the country and even more struggling to find housing.

In Auckland alone, more than 33,000 houses were registered as unoccupied in 2013 census data - some with residents away but more than two thirds listed as empty.

Political activist John Minto says Kiwis need to stop treating housing as "a commodity which people buy and sell to make profit from".

"The first priority for housing is housing people who need it," he told RadioLIVE's First at Five.

"In New Zealand we've allowed this situation to develop where homes are bought and sold for profit for the person who's the landlord, rather than for the living accommodation for tenants and families that desperately need it.

"We are a community and I think when there is a housing crisis I think we should be acting as a community."

However Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford told Stuff the Government was not considering an empty homes tax.

"The Labour-led government has a comprehensive plan to address the housing shortage including cracking down on offshore speculators and changing rules around negative gearing," Mr Twyford said.

This week the Labour-led Government confirmed its National predecessor spent $50 million housing the homeless "in motels" when it had originally budgeted just $2 million.

Mr Twyford told Newshub the blowout was a "ticking time bomb".

The $50 million spent on hiring motel rooms does not include the additional $8.5 million purchase of four motels for transitional housing.

Mr Minto says Vancouver in Canada sets a good example to follow.

"They found people not renting their homes out but just using them as AirBnBs. So they put in an empty homes tax and they're saying that if your rental home is not rented for more than four months in any year then you pay 1 percent of that home's value in a tax.

"I think that would be just the incentive that New Zealanders need, and Auckland in particular, to get those homes on to the market and not only help the homeless situation but actually bring down rents across the city."

Listen to the full interview with John Minto above.

First@Five with James Coleman, 5am - 6am Monday To Friday, on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.

RadioLIVE/Newshub.