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Industry calls for ‘Back to Office’ Budget focus

Victoria’s property sector is calling on State Government leadership to bring life back into Melbourne’s CBD and drive the State’s economic recovery.

Property Council Victorian Interim Executive Director, Matthew Kandelaars, says that other Australian cities have shown that people are ready to return to the office to connect with colleagues, collaborate and enhance productivity – but this isn’t yet possible in Melbourne.

“From Monday, Victorians will be able to fly to NSW and visit an office in the Sydney CBD without restriction, but they won’t be able to work from their own office in Melbourne’s CBD,” Mr Kandelaars said.

Property Council data has recorded office occupancy levels are as low as 7 per cent in the Melbourne CBD, with Sydney at 40 per cent, and Perth at 77 per cent. Importantly, monthly data shows consistent increases in occupancy levels in those jurisdictions, which is a critical step in Australia’s economic recovery.

“The central Melbourne economy alone accounts for some 500,000 jobs and produces 7 per cent of Australia’s GDP,” Mr Kandelaars said.

“Our CBD is the engine room of the Victorian economy, and without the swift and safe return of office workers, the viability of thousands of small businesses is at risk.”

The Property Council’s analysis of national and global data shows a lag effect between the time when people can return to the office and an increase in occupancy levels.

“If Melbourne’s pattern of office return mirrors comparable cities across the globe, the CBD would not see a return to full occupancy until early 2022,” Mr Kandelaars warned.

“We know that a return to office takes considerable time and each day’s delay is a fight for survival for some small businesses.  With the traditional slowdown through the Christmas and New Year period, it’s critical that a clear and immediate roadmap to return to the office is established,” Mr Kandelaars said.

A recent poll* conducted by the Property Council has revealed that more than 60 per cent of respondents are keen to return to the office once restrictions are eased.

35 per cent of respondents say that they ‘cannot wait’ to return to the office environment, with a further 26 per cent comfortable returning with appropriate Government standards.

Next week’s budget is perhaps the most important in Victoria’s history and we know that the Government is rightly focused on economic recovery – but that recovery is reliant on a functioning CBD.

“While we welcome so many of the Government’s stimulus measures, the quickest way to supercharge Victoria’s economic revival is to support the safe return of workers to Melbourne’s CBD.”

The Victorian State Budget will be handed down on Tuesday 24 November.

*Poll question: If restrictions changed and a return to office was allowed, are you interested in

returning?

Yes, I can’t wait to be back – 35%
Yes, with Government Standards – 26%
No, I don't feel it’s safe – 6%
No, I prefer working from home – 32%

Poll results are based on responses from 288 individuals via the Property Council Victoria LinkedIn page.