Dublin City Council must act to end blight of dereliction

Land levy won’t come into force until 2019, but chief executive says time to act is now

More than 2½ years ago the then lord mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn, proposed the introduction of a vacant land levy in an effort to rid the city of "land-hoarding".

Following concerted campaigning by city officials and councillors, the Government included the levy in the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act signed into law early this year.

It gives local authorities the power to impose an annual levy of 3 per cent on the market value of unused land designated for development, if its owner does not take steps to use it productively.

‘Hope value’

Unfortunately the levy will not come into force until 2019, giving property owners more time to sit on land, hoping for bigger increases in value before offering it for sale, or for their own fortunes to improve enough to develop the land themselves – holding onto property for its “hope value”, as city council chief executive


Owen Keegan

puts it.

However, in the meantime the council does have other weapons in its arsenal to tackle the blight of dereliction in the city.

The Derelict Sites Act already allows it to impose a 3 per cent levy on land, or any structure, “which detracts, or is likely to detract, to a material degree from the amenity, character or appearance of land in the neighbourhood”. Under the same Act, the council can compulsorily acquire sites.


These provisions have, however, been little used. Only 54 sites are on the city council’s derelict sites register. Earlier this year it began investigating 630 sites in the city which could warrant inclusion on the register.

Mr Keegan acknowledges that not enough has been done by the council to address the problem.

“I don’t think we’ve been proactive. I think we’ve been too deferential to landlords if they come in and they cut the weeds.”

Compulsory purchase

The excuse has been that compulsory purchase is an expensive process, but Mr Keegan said that, with rising property prices, now is the time to tackle the issue and bring land that could be used for housing and commercial development back into use, rather than wait another three to four years.

“With a rising market and us taking a more proactive stance we could accelerate the redevelopment of these buildings which are a major blight on the fabric of the city centre and the inner city, and do not reflect well on the city council.”