“There are far too many empty shops — not helped no doubt by some of the issues I’ve addressed, but despite the vacancies, some greedy landlords won’t budge on sky-high rents.

“If their shops are still empty after 12 months, how about an empty-shop rates penalty.”

When quizzed about the policy by Property Council WA executive director Sandra Brewer, Mr Zempilas acknowledged it would be unpopular, but “buildings couldn’t stay empty forever”.

“So if an incentive is required to fill a building then so be it,” he said.

Mr Zempilas added it was not a policy he planned to implement immediately and it would have “a long qualifying period”.

But Ms Brewer said property owners were operating in difficult economic conditions to attract and retain tenants and urged the City of Perth to cut red tape instead of penalising landlords.

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She said CBD property owners were already getting higher bills after the council backflipped on its decision to freeze rates in March, when office vacancy rates were at an all-time high.

In June, analysis by property research firm Research Y revealed about a fifth of Perth’s office space was vacant, the equivalent of 21.5 fully vacant 240 St Georges Terrace buildings.

“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,” she said.

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

Ms Brewer said the City of Perth needed a Lord Mayor who pushed for lower costs to attract business tenants, not one advocating for added charges.

Perth electors will vote on October 17 in the first City of Perth election since the troubled local government was suspended in 2018.

with Nathan Hondros

Marta is an award-winning photographer and journalist with a focus on social justice issues and local government.

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