Property editor of the NZ Herald

Ghost homes - properties lie empty in spite of crisis

Inner-city Auckland apartments and residences in Manly, Takapuna, Newmarket and Gulf Harbour rate highest for empty or "ghost" dwellings, an analysis shows.

John Polkinghorne, associate director of specialist property consultancy RCG, said a breakdown of the city's empty dwellings showed these areas had the highest number of vacant dwellings on Census night.

Stanley Bay, Turanga, Grafton West and Glen Innes East have the next most vacancies in the top 10, he found in his analysis of the 33,330 vacant dwellings from the last Census.

Chris Darby, an Auckland councillor, is concerned about Stanley Bay, where he has noticed many empty properties, particularly in one prestigious street.

The analysis showed 75 empty houses there at Census 2013 but Darby says many more are now vacant. One former resident complained how her family home had been left empty and how upsetting she and the family found that.

Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith said properties might be vacant because of owners being on holiday, renovating, selling or tenants coming and going, but Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford says "ghost housing" is a huge issue in Auckland and he is concerned about the effects.

Auckland's most high-profile empty mansion is the Spanish-style, turret-topped Herne Bay house at 81 Sarsfield St, which is thought to be worth about $15 million. It has stood empty for years and is now being demolished.

The Herald reported last October that the house dubbed "Circus McGurkus" would be demolished and replaced by a new building this December.

In Auckland, Watercare cannot supply data on low-use properties.

"Our water use data is held within our billing system, which is set up to enable us to support our customers by identifying unusually high water usage. Unfortunately, our system has not been set up to identify customers that use no water," said a spokeswoman.

"We don't have that information. Our focus is on potential leaks and notifying customers of high usage ... Collecting data regarding low usage is not necessary."

Nor can electricity providers give figures. A spokesman for one of the major suppliers said disconnections did not necessary mean dwellings were vacant but instead could indicate a customer had shifted to another provider.

In Canada and Australia, ghost housing estates are a big issue.

An analysis this year by the University of Sydney's City Futures Research Centre examined reasons for about 90,000 Sydney properties being vacant. It found "perverse" tax incentives encouraged investors to leave the homes empty in the most desirable suburbs, adding fuel to the housing affordability crisis.

A similar study in Melbourne last year analysed water use and suggested more than 80,000 properties, or 4.8 per cent of the city's housing stock, appeared to be unused.

In Canada, the Vancouver Sun has reported this year how one in 10 condos were empty.

Empty nests


509,625 dwellings

33,360 unoccupied dwellings

New Zealand

1,561,959 dwellings

185,445 unoccupied dwellings



90,000 residences vacant


80,000 residences vacant

Sources: Census 2013, City Futures Research Centre

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 21 Oct 2016 11:55:23 Processing Time: 634ms