Owners of vacant, undeveloped sites may face increased financial penalties

New Bill to be published by the Social Democrats proposes the addition of stronger sanctions to new laws introduced by Government two years ago

The Social Democrats Bill, which will be published by co-leader Catherine Murphy (left) and Dublin councillor Gary Gannon, proposes to strengthen  penalties considerably on owners of vacant, undeveloped sites.  Photograph: Paul Sharp/SHARPPIX

The Social Democrats Bill, which will be published by co-leader Catherine Murphy (left) and Dublin councillor Gary Gannon, proposes to strengthen penalties considerably on owners of vacant, undeveloped sites. Photograph: Paul Sharp/SHARPPIX

 

Owners of vacant sites who fail to develop them will face increasing financial penalties, under a new Bill to be published by the Social Democrats on Tuesday.

The Urban Regeneration and Housing Bill 2017 will propose to add stronger sanctions to new laws introduced by Government two years ago.

Under the Government’s Act of the same name, vacant sites in certain areas will be subject to a 3 per cent levy on its market value if the owner or developer fails to bring forward reasonable proposals for redevelopment or reuse without good reason. The starting date for payment of the levy is January 2019.

The Social Democrats Bill, which will be published by co-leader Catherine Murphy and Dublin councillor Gary Gannon , proposes to strengthen the penalties considerably.

Yearly increases

Under the provisions of its Private Members Bill, the party proposes that the rate of the levy should be increased by one percentage point for every full year that a site remains on the Vacant Sites Registers of the local authority. So if a site remains undeveloped after a year, the levy will increase from 3 per cent to 4 per cent, and will continue to increase for each year that the site is vacant.

The party has argued that current policies and laws need to be strengthened to free up vacant sites.

The party wants more small sites to be included (at present anything under one-eighth of an acre is excluded) and also wants less leeway to be given to site owners who are heavily indebted to avoid paying the levy.

Housing crisis

“We are in the midst of a housing crisis with a total of 7,500 people living in emergency accommodation,” said Ms Murphy. “This is not a crisis caused by a shortage of land to develop – it’s down to the fact that we are not building on the land that we have, especially in urban areas where hundreds of infill sites are lying neglected and overgrown.

“This Bill plugs loopholes in the existing law and introduces fresh incentives to make sure that landowners and developers make more land available for housing and other developments.”

In a circular to local authorities last year, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said that there was an estimated 280 vacant sites between the two canals in Dublin, comprising a total of 60 hectares.

He said the Government wanted site activation to be an integral part of the planning process in each local authority, to increase the number of homes being built in the State.