Minister expected to address calls for tax on vacant homes

According to the latest census there are some 183,000 vacant properties in the State

The highest number of empty homes was in Leitrim where for every 1,000 people in that county there were 112 vacant homes. Photograph: Enda O’Dowd

The highest number of empty homes was in Leitrim where for every 1,000 people in that county there were 112 vacant homes. Photograph: Enda O’Dowd

 

The possibility of a new tax on vacant homes is likely to be addressed by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy next week.

Mr Murphy, who delayed publication of the Government’s strategy on vacant housing because it “was not ambitious enough”, has said the final strategy would be published in September.

He has already said it was “more than likely” the strategy would “require engagement with the Minister for Finance”, a key indication that a tax on vacant housing was being considered.

According to the latest census there are some 183,000 vacant homes, excluding holiday homes, in the State.

The lowest number of empty dwellings, excluding holiday homes, relative to population size was in south Dublin where there was just 13.

This was followed by Fingal where there were 17 and Kildare where there were 20. The highest number of empty homes was in Leitrim where for every 1,000 people in that county there were 112 vacant homes.

‘Missed opportunity’

Labour Party housing spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan said the empty homes represent a “missed opportunity “ and a “crucial pillar” in efforts to tackle homelessness and housing waiting lists. She said a vacant homes tax was necessary “to drive owners who leave properties empty for long periods, to action”.

Speaking after he assumed responsibility for housing Mr Murphy said the vacant homes strategy was “not ambitious enough”. He warned “ existing property interests should note that changes are coming”.

A spokesman for the Minister said Mr Murphy “expects to publish the vacant homes strategy in September and give an update on its progress next week”.

Rental prices

Also expected in mid-September is the report of the Residential Tenancies Board into rental prices in the second quarter of 2017.

Rents in Dublin declined by 1.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2017. Rosalind Carroll, director of the Residential Tenancies Board, said the upcoming figures for the second quarter of 2017, to be published in September, would be a crucial indicator of whether rents had stabilised in the capital.

She said the indications were that rental inflation had reached a plateau as the data covered the period immediately after the introduction of Rental Pressure Zones, which capped the rate of allowable rent increases.

She said another factor was that rents in Dublin had probably reached “the absolute maximum” cost for many people. When people could not afford to rent in the city centre they tended to move further out to find more affordability, international experience had shown she said.