.Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

But with most office workers still doing their jobs from home, empty buildings remain a serious problem for the sector with just 13 per cent of Melbourne CBD floor space occupied, compared with Sydney at 45 per cent and Brisbane at 61 per cent.

The Property Council’s Victorian interim executive director Matthew Kandelaars said that the industry had been buoyed by the gradual lifting of restrictions and November’s state budget.

“Across nearly every measure and every sector, the industry is optimistic about growth potential in 2021,” Mr Kandelaars said.

“This is a significant jump in confidence in just a single quarter and bodes well for the property sector to lead Victoria’s economic recovery in the new year.”

Mr Kandelaars said confidence has been bolstered by state government stimulus including stamp duty waivers, support for the emerging build-to-rent sector and the pledge of record social housing spending.

But the Property Council executive warned that the rate of return of Victorians to their workplaces “will have a significant impact on the state’s economic recovery and future confidence levels”.

Office workplaces are capped at 25 per cent capacity, which will increase to 50 per cent from January 11, subject to the state government’s public health advice, with the 50,000-strong public service to ramp up to 50 per cent in early February.

The City of Melbourne, backed by the broader business community, has been campaigning to get workers back to city as soon as possible and Mr Kandelaars was also calling on Wednesday for progress.

“The property sector is keen to see continued progress in reactivating Melbourne’s CBD, which accounts for a quarter of the state’s economy,” Mr Kandelaars said.

“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.


“The quickest way to supercharge Victoria’s economic revival and boost industry confidence is to support the continued safe return of workers to Melbourne’s CBD.”

A government spokeswoman said the return-to-work timetable was a cautious and steady one.

“We’ve always taken a cautious and steady approach, making way for the private sector to begin their transition back to the office first,” she said.

“The Victorian Public Service is preparing to gradually return to the office from January.”

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