Rate hikes hit WA CBD landlords even harder

Property Council WA Executive Director Sandra Brewer has described any idea to increase rates for struggling CBD owners with vacant properties as “poor policy”.

Ms Brewer was speaking after Property Council WA today hosted an event with all seven Lord Mayor candidates at Beaumonde on the Point. The candidates, Bruce Reynolds, Sandy Anghie, Di Bain, Mark Gibson, Brodie McCulloch, Tim Schwass and Basil Zempilas were quizzed about their policies for the City of Perth.

Ms Brewer asked Mr Zempilas about pre-campaign comments that he would charge higher rates on vacant properties given high CBD vacancy rates.

Mr Zempilas said it was not a policy he would implement immediately and it would have “a long qualifying period”. “I certainly understand that many people in this room might not think it’s a great idea but in essence, Sandra, an empty building can’t stay empty forever – it simply can’t,” Mr Zempilas responded. “So if an incentive is required to fill a building then so be it.”

Ms Brewer said a vacancy tax was hardly an incentive. “Property owners are working in very difficult economic conditions to attract and retain tenants,” Ms Brewer said. “The City of Perth should support them by reducing red tape, not penalising them.”

CBD property owners have complained they are getting higher rates bills after the City of Perth backflipped on its March 2020 undertaking not to increase rates.

In its March COVID-19 response, the City of Perth pledged “a freeze in increases in municipal rates and charges, including sanitation and waste charges” but the statement on its website has now changed to “a freeze in the total rates yield and no increases to other municipal rates and charges”. That means the City of Perth would not receive a greater amount of total rate revenue but it has led to some ratepayers experiencing bill shock when receiving their rates notices.

The rates rises have angered Property Council WA members who have received bigger bills. This comes in the context of Perth experiencing the highest CBD office vacancies in the country and widespread concern about the challenging conditions for retailers and food and hospitality operators.

WA property owners had already paid out millions of dollars in rental waivers to business owner tenants under the National Cabinet’s emergency Code in March.

Ms Brewer said the property industry needed a Lord Mayor who supported lower costs and charges to attract business tenants, not add to costs.

“We want to see City of Perth councillors working together to revitalise the CBD,” Ms Brewer said.

“We need lower costs, not more costs. And we need vital infrastructure, such as schools and playgrounds, in place to support a future residential population of 90,000 by 2050.

“We need to make sure all levels of government collaborate to ensure a Perth City Deal delivers economic diversity, more jobs and a thriving city centre.

“We need to deliver the best possible retail, commercial and tourism experience for the people who live, work and visit Perth.”

As well as cutting council rates for commercial property, Ms Brewer said the City should offer incentives or at the very least eliminate obstacles that limit the ability of owners of underused spaces to invest.

Property Council WA’s A Plan for Perth outlines policies designed to increase economic activity, create jobs and build confidence that it says should be carefully considered by candidates contesting the City of Perth elections.

Property Council WA Executive Director Sandra Brewer said the nine ideas that make up Property Council WA’s Plan for Perth support the diversification and economic recovery of the CBD, activate underused spaces, put important infrastructure in place for future residents and ensure that all three tiers of government work together to maximise the benefits of City Deal for Perth.

Media contact: Helen Shield | M 0403 877 015 | E [email protected]