So says the headline on Dick Smith’s Fair Go web site. It links to an original article by Eryck Bagshaw of the Sydney Morning Herald. Interesting reading, there are even some bar charts. These articles prompted us to look at our postcode level Census data. One of the articles quotes “The census showed empty property numbers up by 19 per cent in Melbourne and 15 per cent in Sydney over the past five years alone,” but it doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny. For Sydney (the one we’ve checked), the rate in 2011 was 8.2% and in 2016 8.7%, an increase of 6.1%, not the 15% cited. We got a slightly higher figure for “inner Sydney” of a 7.2% increase, but of course we are not aware of the definition of “Sydney” used in the article – a picture always helps, so here’s where our figures apply to!

Change to unoccupied dwelling rates at postcode level 2011 to 2016 Sydney region.

Here’s how the data looks for our illustration areas for 2011 and 2016. The areas around the Hawkesbury estuary are popular holiday spots, especially in summer months – the Census is conducted mid winter!

Percent of all dwellings unoccupied on Census night 2016 by postcode area, Sydney region.

Here are the numbers for 2011. A little difficult to spot on images of this size, but postcode 2091 indicates unoccupancy of 20% in 2016 but only 0% in 2011. That’s HMAS Penguin, reasonable to assume there was a training exercise or similar, off-base in 2016, or maybe running a course for external staff in 2011. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any light to shed on this!

Percent of all dwellings unoccupied on Census night 2011 by postcode area, Sydney region.

Overall, not a hugely different picture, especially in view of the continuing large scale intake of migrants. Looking a bit further afield, the pattern becomes a bit more clear. In NSW generally, more dwellings are unoccupied in regional areas, as we’ve indicated using straight population change variables previously, the drift away from the regions continues. As people leave in the face of mechanised agriculture and the closure of food processing and other regional industries, the homes they once lived in remain empty.

Percent unoccupied Dwellings 2016 NSW / ACT

The national unoccupied rate is indeed close to 11.2% as indicated in the article linked above, but the reasons seem to be mostly regional rather than urban. Another large rate of unoccupancy in regional NSW is 2808 at 45.7%. This is Wyangala, established in 1928 to house workers to construct Wyangala Dam (thanks, Wikipedia!). The local school is reported to be on the brink of closure with only 5 enrollments in 2015. No surprise then, there are plenty vacant homes. If you fancy a tree change, the median monthly mortgage in postcode 2808 in 2016 was $1,028 per month.

For Tasmania, well it’s a relaxed life style and lots of Tasmanians have a shack by the sea or on a lake!

Unoccupied dwelling percent Tasmania 2016

Around Hobart, notice the two discrete postcode 7004? One is South Hobart – about the national average of 10.9%. But what’s going on in Battery Point 7004 at twice the rate 22.2%? Battery Point is dress circle real estate in Tasmania, perhaps the wealthy residents have just headed north for warmer climes, and no need to sub-let on Air_BnB?! Leave a comment if you know a better explanation! The Tasman Peninsula exhibits some holiday shack vacancy, but like many regional parts of Australia, resident agricultural labourors are no longer required or not prepared to live and work where there is need for them – the restrictions on back packer visas has caused much concern in farming districts in Tasmania as elsewhere, where labour shortages are, amazingly, a constant problem.

Unoccupied dwelling percent Hobart 2016