Fat cats and ghost mansions

The July 14 Age reported on unoccupied "ghost mansions" in the well-heeled Melbourne suburb of Toorak. These million-dollar houses have been bought by wealthy landowners and left unoccupied – in some cases for decades.

At the same time, Melbourne has a severe housing shortage and thousands of people are homeless every night. Vacancy rates for rental properties in inner Melbourne currently sit under 1% — a record low. Also, the available student housing on the private rental market is increasingly expensive.

Property speculators, who are waiting for land values to rise, own many of the ghost mansions. The Age also said some rich people don't like having neighbours – so they simply buy the house next door and keep it empty.

Last year, students at the University of Melbourne took matters into their own hands and occupied vacant university buildings that had been left empty for three years. Despite a campaign to turn the buildings into affordable student housing they were evicted by the university.

On July 9, ABC news said the rate of homelessness in the Northern Territory is almost five times the national average. For every 10,000 Territorians, 248 sleep rough each night. In comparison, Victoria, NSW and the ACT each had 42 homeless people per 10,000. The other states varied between 53 and 69 people per 10,000.

Such contradictions highlight the absurdity of the capitalist system. The rich own more houses than they need and benefit from rental income and negative gearing. Those who need a house the most go without.

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