The Greens and Perth organisation Spacemarket have launched a new high tech way to help tap Perth's vast reservoir of empty buildings with commercial, creative, public amenity or residential potential.
The mobile phone app ‘Why So Empty?' feeds photos and information into a database of the metropolitan area's vacant buildings, including some of Perth's most attractive and historic structures. The app's development is a collaboration between WA Senator Scott Ludlam and Perth organisation Spacemarket - http://www.spacemarket.com.au/whysoempty
"Spacemarket has been overwhelmed by enthusiasm from the community, from councils and government, from prospective tenants and building owners for our cause. We have facilitated many successful pairings and helped to establish new businesses and co-working spaces across greater Perth," said Spacemarket's Beth George.
"We are delighted to launch the whysoempty app because of the impetus it gives the broader community to not only note where empty spaces are, but also to speculate on what they would like to see happen there. This is valuable information that can enable building owners to consider alternative uses. We are not just interested in locating wholly empty buildings - upper floors, basements, even rooms provide opportunities for new tenancies."
Spacemarket's Nic Brundson said "Our ambition is to bring about authentic new listings and invite building owners and the public to work together in creating a lively and productive urban environment".
"We understand the red-tape and we know buildings must be safe and accessible. However, there are a number of underutilised spaces that could be made safe, accessible and activated by reaching out to property owners on the huge potential of these spaces. Our intention is not just identify locations, but to provide assistance in activating them," said Mr Brundson.
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said the app "has the potential to be a major part of the solution for Fremantle's retail and commercial challenges. Identifying under-utilised and empty spaces and then linking them with potential tenants or popup shops will undoubtedly make our city cities more diverse and vibrant".
While the app will catalogue identifiably vacant buildings, Senator Scott Ludlam is also calling on the State Government to conduct a metro-wide audit of all vacant properties in Perth to determine just how much space is going to waste - as a first step towards putting those properties to use solving the city's residential, commercial and public amenity needs.
"There is huge demand from small business and creative industries for commercial space, and huge demand for affordable housing - yet Perth has a vast reserve of empty commercial and residential properties," said Senator Ludlam. "No record is kept of the vacant commercial space that is not on the property market - that information is needed so we can reach out to owners and find a way to put that space to work. I've raised this with the federal government, now it's time for the state government to get on board."
Senator Ludlam also championed his Convert-To-Rent policy, a project that would provide grants to make empty properties available as affordable housing: http://greens.org.au/files/Convert_to_rent.pdf
"We'd love to see mixed use; dynamic developments transforming empty or partially empty buildings into commercial, creative and residential projects. It's difficult to determine how many residential properties are vacant in Perth but if our vacancy rate is anything like Melbourne's that would mean almost 40,000 dwellings sitting idle, while we have about 28,000 households on the public housing wait list."