Angry sign on popular Melbourne street highlights growing problem

A frustrated Melburnian has sparked an online debate after venting their concern about the number of vacant shops in the inner city.

“Greedy absent landlords are killing Fitzroy Street,” the resident wrote on a sign taped to an empty store front in St Kilda.

“Look at how they leave their buildings that we walk past every day! They don’t care!

“It’s time for a vacant premises tax now”

The sign on the shop's window in Fitzroy St, St Kilda.
The sign on a Fitzroy Street empty store in St Kilda, Melbourne called for a 'vacant premises tax'. Source: Reddit

A photo of the sign and two other images of inside the store reveal a derelict and partly destroyed business.

With a counter top, menu board and a series of tables scattered among the debris, it’s believed the venue was a kebab stop in its past life.

Now with a caved in roof and floor strewn with rubble, the premise barely looks fit for habitation.

“This is how slums are born,” one person said while responding to the post on reddit.

“It’s genuinely kinda depressing just how many empty shops there are,” another added,

“St Kilda has lost its vibe,” someone else said.

Inside the run-down, vacant St Kilda shop.
A close-up photo of the shop in St Kilda revealed a scene of destruction inside. Source: reddit

People call for a tax on vacant, run-down shops

Many on social media were quick to also blame “greedy landlords” for the rise in empty storefronts, accusing them of raising rents nobody can afford.

“They are mad, greedy and will happily wait for their money,” one person wrote.

“Greedy landlords are truly the scourge of society,” another said. “I say tax the b******s a month’s rent and watch how they drop to more reasonable rents.”

Others were in line with charging a fee for bare properties saying “without a doubt landlords should be penalised.”

“There needs to be an empty lot tax so that they are encouraged to support start-up businesses more and help the entire economy flourish as a side effect,” someone said.

A for lease sign (left) and a quiet street with two people walking (right)
More retailers are being forced to close up shop as employees continue to work from home and shoppers stay online. Source: AA

Vacant property tax a ‘dumb idea’ say others

With plenty of employees still working from home and shoppers opting for retail therapy online, plenty of reddit users said landlords were struggling to even get tenants through the door.

One described any notion of a vacant property tax as a “dumb idea".

“They’re not making money while the shop front is vacant,” he pointed out. “That is the penalty.”

While the Real Estate Institute of Victoria rejected any notion of “greedy landlords” scalping for higher rents.

“Nobody wants an empty property,” President Richard Simpson told Yahoo News Australia.

“If it’s vacant, you’ve still got to pay increasing mortgage payments, land tax, rates, water rates and cost of repairs as well as building insurance at a higher premium because it’s vacant.”

Instead Mr Simpson says the issue is with tenants just not being there.

“There are not enough people wanting to start businesses because you don't want to take the risk when interest rates are rising, and you don’t have the customer base,” he said.

While conceding there is no “short term fix,” Mr Simpson slammed calls for a vacant property tax as “way over the top.”

“I don't think it’s going to do any good,” he said.

“It’s not going to make landlords lower the rent, or give away the shop for nothing.

“But I think landlords do owe the community a duty to keep their empty shops presentable.”

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