Page 583 - Week 02 - Thursday, 24 March 2022

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In my electorate of Brindabella, the Monash shops, the Richardson shops and the Livingston Avenue shops have sat unoccupied for years. The Livingston Avenue shops were empty when my family first moved to Kambah in 2004 and have sat derelict and run-down ever since. Richardson shops have been vacant for more than 15 years. That could be a site prime for urban infill development. It could be a thriving local shopping centre with a range of microbusinesses, maybe even co-ops looking for an affordable place to start up.

Why have landlords been allowed, because of government taxation policies, to keep these spaces vacant? Does the landlord need a bailout? Is the landlord offsetting profitable investments in other places and therefore taking away these vital community assets? If it is the latter, we must investigate what role taxation and economic levers within the power of the government could play in the redevelopment of these sites.

A vacancy tax could be a way to incentivise commercial property owners to either rent their properties or redevelop their properties. We believe the current situation, where suburban facilities become dilapidated, become hubs for graffiti and other antisocial behaviour, devalues suburbs and makes our communities less safe. We believe that commercial property owners have responsibilities to their communities to make these sites safe, engaging and of service to their communities.

Off the back of the pandemic, small, medium- and family-sized businesses are struggling with the cost of running a business in this city. A key cost of running a business is renting the space to operate from. For this reason, former Liberal Chief Minister Kate Carnell proposed a vacancy tax previously. Prior to the pandemic, during her time as the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Ms Carnell stated:

One of the great dilemmas we’ve got is that there is incentives for landlords to leave premises vacant rather than reduce rent.

Joining with the small business commissioners from around the country, Ms Carnell advocated for a plan to address the under-utilisation of shops and high commercial rents, to support small businesses and to bring life into community shopping centres.

As we begin to recover from the pandemic, now is the right time for the government to investigate the levers available to us to support businesses to access affordable spaces from which to operate. I am putting forward this motion today for an inquiry to begin an important community consultation and discussion about the economic levers available to our government to ensure that property investment and ownership is accountable to community needs and expectations.

As has been discussed at length in this Assembly over the past few days, to be a landlord is a right, but rights come with responsibilities. As our city continues to grow and develop, we need to have ambitious and challenging conversations about how the government can best ensure that privately owned spaces in our city are a part of the housing solution and a part of our vision for active and connected communities.

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