Tax relief for refurbishments fails to attract applications

Just eight apply for Living City Initiative that aims to bring vacant buildings back into use

 Aungier Street:   the council has yet to complete a survey of the vacancy levels in the city, but surveys on Aungier Street indicate a likely upper floor vacancy rate of 40-60 per cent. Photograph:  Bryan O’Brien

Aungier Street: the council has yet to complete a survey of the vacancy levels in the city, but surveys on Aungier Street indicate a likely upper floor vacancy rate of 40-60 per cent. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

A tax relief scheme designed to encourage the reuse of vacant city centre buildings, particularly for homes, has attracted just eight applications to Dublin City Council.

The Living City Initiative allows owners of houses that are at least 100 years old to claim tax relief for their refurbishment, at a rate of 10 per cent per year for 10 years.

It was introduced in Budget 2014, but only came into effect last April because of a requirement to make changes to the Finance Act so the scheme could meet EU state aid rules.

However, in the six months since it became operational, only a handful of applications – six on the northside of the city, and two on the southside – have been made to the council leading to concerns the initiative could be scrapped.

“This is an extraordinarily generous scheme” city architect Ali Grehan said, “but if it’s not availed of it won’t be continued.” The incentives for the refurbishment of pre-1915 houses in specific designated areas of the city centre are targeted at owner-occupiers.

10-year period

Owners can claim relief only for the years the house is their principal private residence. If the property is sold within the 10-year period, entitlement to the relief stops and the new owner will not be able to claim it. The scheme is also available to the owners of historic commercial buildings, who will be able to apply for capital allowances over a seven-year period on the refurbishment or conversion of a property. The amount of tax relief available under the commercial element of the incentive is capped at €200,000 for any individual project.

The council hoped the measure would reduce the vacancy levels in the city centre, particularly in the upper floors of buildings, often left empty when the ground floor was used as a shop.

“If we don’t grasp the Living City Initiative we are never going to grasp living in the city and reusing our buildings,” council conservation officer Nicki Matthews said.

The council has yet to complete a survey of the vacancy levels in the city, but surveys on Aungier Street indicate a likely upper floor vacancy rate of 40-60 per cent.

Predominantly vacant

“In the north Georgian core upper floors of buildings are predominantly vacant and empty. This is our opportunity – we have an amount of vacant buildings that could be used for homes in Dublin,” Ms Matthews said.

Dublin Civic Trust has said a cap of 210sq m on the floor area of eligible houses meant many of the houses in the designated area are excluded.

“This excludes the majority of Georgian housing in Dublin, and the very properties that need the incentive most, especially on the northside,” trust spokesman Graham Hickey said.