There is no evidence of an empty-dwellings issue that would contribute meaningfully to Wellington’s housing situation, and even if there was, there are serious challenges with forcing “empty house” landowners to develop or rent out their property. Firstly, we don’t have thousands of holiday homes or empty apartments like some cities do. What we do have is an overheated housing market that makes it far more lucrative for a property owner to sell or rent out a dwelling than to sit on it, uninhabited. The Housing and Business Capacity Assessment found that when taking everything into account, including the likelihood of development and the current lucrative housing market, Wellington is currently short of 4,000 homes at least. There’s no evidence that “activating” under-utilised homes would make any meaningful contribution to fixing the problem. Secondly, there is currently no government power that can force owners to “activate” an “underutilised” property (sell it or develop it for housing, or rent it out). Thirdly, all areas that can be 15-minute neighbourhoods – close to amenities and able to offer people a good life – should accommodate lots of people. So these areas should be upzoned unless there’s an extremely strong public-good reason not to.
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