Local Government Will Implement ‘Vacancy Tax’ to Oust Zombie Shops From Sydney’s High Streets

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The local government is pushing to banish zombie shops from Sydney’s high streets to revitalise the area.

The plan would involve raising taxes on empty buildings and putting stricter regulations on landlords that keep spaces empty for extended periods. 

Darcy Byrne, the mayor of the Inner West, has written to Premier Dominic Perrottet asking for a legal amendment that would allow councils to charge higher rates to owners of vacant properties while lowering rates for individuals who occupy their spaces.

According to Byrne, the inner west’s commercial vacancy rate was 3.9 per cent, higher than Sydney’s average of 3 per cent, and fewer companies were looking to lease retail buildings there now than they were at the same time in 2021.

“Vacant shops and premises in main streets have detrimental effects on the suburb, including reducing the overall foot traffic to the area,” he wrote. “[They] are prone to deterioration and attract anti-social behaviours including squatting and graffiti.”

Byrne also said the council was “not looking to raise revenue at all, just to get the incentives right.” 

After the Baird government seemed uninterested in his first attempt to introduce the differential pricing idea in 2015, he is making a second try. State legal changes would be necessary to implement the plan.

Former small business commissioner Robyn Hobbs and small business ombudsman Kate Carnell had previously backed a so-called “vacancy tax” in 2019, but it was not enacted.

The Inner West Council will launch a $7.5 million main street revitalisation fund this year. Businesses, landlords, arts organisations, chambers of commerce, and community organisations must “work together to put forward a plan to revitalise their main street” to be eligible for funding.

The local government is confident that this initiative will help to bring life back to Sydney’s high streets, making them vibrant and exciting places to visit once again.

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