We have more housing than we can poke a stick at!

There are just over 9 million private dwellings across Australia. urban-sprawl

At any one time, about 85% or 7.8 million of them are occupied on a full-time basis.

A further 425,000 (5%) are used by visitors or for short periods of time and 10% or 935,000 private dwellings are not used on a regular basis.

I repeat, one out of every ten private dwellings across Australia are not used on a permanent basis.

They are “unoccupied”, according to the national statistician.

What is even harder to believe is that the number and proportion of unoccupied private dwellings have increased across Australia over the last ten years.

There were 830,000 unoccupied dwellings in 2006. city family urban suburb

One would have thought that many owners would have either sold or rented out these underutilised assets.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The quick reply to these numbers would be that most of these unoccupied dwellings are apartments in coastal markets like the Gold Coast and Cairns.

And whilst the proportion of unoccupied stock is higher in the regional coastal cities/towns – i.e. 13% on the Sunshine Coast; 11% on the Gold Coast and in Cairns, still 8% or close to 450,000 private dwellings in our eight capital cities are not being used on a regular basis.

Overseas investors who would rather lock it up and not rent it out?


There are, for example, 145,000 unused private dwellings in Melbourne compared to 120,000 across Sydney.

Some of our regional centres – and more so than our coastal markets – have a high proportion of locked-up dwellings.

Eighteen per cent of Geelong’s private dwellings are unoccupied; one in eight of Ballarat’s dwellings are also not used on a frequent basis, as is the case for many dwellings in the regional towns across South Australia (average 22%); Western Australia (average 17%) and Tasmania (17%).

These are mostly family holiday accommodation – the second home or “batches”, as they are called in New Zealand.

It seems a real waste, if you ask me.

We discussed this topic years ago and suggested that maybe, instead of a baby bonus, the government should have implemented a housing bonus, incentivising owners to fully utilise their housing assets.

Frankly, a stick would be better than a carrot, with much higher land tax being charged on those residential properties not under regular occupation.

We cannot keep handing out money!

Some more interesting stats

Let me complete this Missive with some other related housing statistics. location map house suburb area find

  • One quarter of the Australian population lives alone; a further 27% live in couple only households and just a 40% have children living at home.
  • There are 2.65 people, on average, per household, which has increased over the last decade – but it is down from 3.5 people per dwelling two generations ago.
  • There are now 3.2 bedrooms per dwelling, which continues to increase and is up by almost a whole bedroom since the late 1950s.  More telling is that today there are 2.4 million homes in Australia with four or more bedrooms, which is up from 2 million similarly sized private dwellings just ten years ago.  Today, one in three Australian dwellings holds four or more bedrooms!
  • Yet, three out of five (57%) of our lone person households live in detached housing, as do four out of five (78%) of our couple only households.  Most of these single and couple households live in three or four bedroom properties.

I stress – there is nothing wrong with this.

But the official statistics show – again – that we continue to overcapitalise in our housing stock in this country.

We have more housing than we can poke a stick at!


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Michael Matusik


Michael is director of independent property advisory Matusik Property Insights. He is independent, perceptive and to the point; has helped over 550 new residential developments come to fruition and writes his insightful Matusik Missive

'We have more housing than we can poke a stick at!' have 1 comment


    December 13, 2016 Robert Sugden

    Land tax is a great idea! It should apply to all, done in much the same way as councils do with regard to rates calculations
    – valuation is based on site value. Site value is the market value of the land in its present state. It includes the value of any improvements made to the land including filling, clearing, leveling and drainage works. The site value does not include structural improvements such as houses, sheds and other buildings.
    And take it all the way, abolish income tax (disincentive to be more productive and innovate) and GST (regressive tax)! No more land banking, property would be used to its full value, innovation would come to the fore, productivity would rise, land banking would disappear and the wealthy would be taxed more equitably!
    Obviously lots of work would be done to implement this and by no means would it solve all the current problems, but neither would any other tax scheme…plus this could be built from sctrach rather than the multiple add on here and band-aid there tax system that is currently in place! Would be very exciting!


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