Councils will be asked to find out why properties are vacant, Minister says

Michael McGrath said it was easier to use existing housing stock than build from scratch

Michael McGrath defended the new housing plan saying that the Government was confident that it would work to block the bulk buying of new homes by investment funds. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Michael McGrath defended the new housing plan saying that the Government was confident that it would work to block the bulk buying of new homes by investment funds. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

The Government will be asking local authorities to actively work with vacant property owners to identify the reasons why and what needed to be done to return it to use, Michael McGrath has said.

There were many reasons why such properties were vacant, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform told Newstalk Breakfast, such as probate, the owner could be in a nursing home or the property was derelict. While an Indecon report some years ago had advised against a vacant property tax, there was a need to make better use of such properties, he said.

Later on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr McGrath said that it was easier to use existing housing stock rather than to build from scratch.

It was a complex challenge and one that the Government would keep under review, the said.

The Minister defended the new housing plan saying that the Government was confident that it would work to block the bulk buying of new homes by investment funds. The combination of tax and planning regulations would be effective, he said.

The new plan which passed the Dail on Wednesday will see a new 10 per cent stamp duty on purchases of more than 10 houses per year which was passed by the Dáil. This measure does not include apartments.

On Newstalk Breakfast, Mr McGrath said that the investment funds were necessary for the building of apartment complexes, if there was an end to such international investment then there would be a reduction in supply.

Mr McGrath pointed out that an apartment complex had not been built in Cork city in the last decade and that needed to be rectified. “There are significant issues with apartment viability. To stop international investment funds would have a devastating impact.”

When asked about the position of short term rentals such as AirBnb, Mr McGrath said that a balance needed to be struck as short term accommodation was important to the tourism sector which was integral to economic recovery.

The Government is planning a new crackdown on short-term Airbnb rentals as well as vacant homes and sites.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien on Wednesday night appeared before the parliamentary party meetings of Fine Gael, the Green Party and his own party, Fianna Fáil, to discuss the Government’s attempts to address the housing crisis.

At the Fine Gael meeting, Mr O’Brien said his department was close to concluding a piece of work on how to further regulate short-term lettings through platforms like Airbnb.

Under the plans, he said, a property would not be allowed to advertise on the platform without the requisite planning permission.