Tax to replace vacant site levy part of Government strategy

Higher charges for homes that lie idle among tough measures expected in October budget

The Housing for All plan says up to 2,500 empty properties will be purchased and resold as family and individual homes during the lifetime of the strategy. Photograph:  Yui Mok/PA

The Housing for All plan says up to 2,500 empty properties will be purchased and resold as family and individual homes during the lifetime of the strategy. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

 

A stringent tax to replace the vacant site levy and higher property taxes on homes that lie idle will form a central part of the Government’s strategy to expedite development on unused lands and bring an estimated 90,000 vacant homes into use.

The tougher measures identified in the new Housing for All strategy are expected to form part of next month’s budget.

In addition, the Department of Housing is also expected to support local authorities to begin campaigns to purchase vacant properties in their area through more aggressive use of compulsory purchase orders (CPO).

The Government’s Housing for All plan said that up to 2,500 empty properties could be purchased and resold as family and individual homes during the lifetime of the strategy.

A Government source said previous measures to address vacant homes and vacant sites had not achieved the desired impact and more radical moves were now required.

Compulsory purchases

While some authorities such as Louth County Council and Cavan County Council did make inroads, the number of idle properties bought by CPO was relatively modest. For example, the National Oversight and Audit Commission noted the top performing county, Louth, completed CPOs on 93 homes in the five-year period between 2016 and 2020.

Similarly, a recent analysis by the Parliamentary Budget Office showed that eight local authorities had no active register in the third-quarter of 2020 for the vacant site levy, which has been in operation since 2017.

In the period between January and October 2020, a total of just under €1.2 million was collected, and that by only four of the 31 local authorities. Most of the money (€868,450) was collected by Dublin City.

Of the three others, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown collected €245,000; Cork city €221,875 and Roscommon €17,200.

Fines imposed

The low level of participation in imposing fines came notwithstanding many councils identifying high numbers of vacant sites, including Sligo County Council (1,225); Cork County (1,470) and Kilkenny (1,295).

While the Government has yet to identify the tax that will replace the levy, sources said it could be administered centrally by the Revenue Commissioners and not by local authorities. The sources also pointed out the purpose of the levy has never been as an income-generating vehicle but rather as one that would incentivise those who own vacant sites to make them available and not engage in “hoarding”.

Some of these sites might form the basis for a new Croí Cónaithe (Towns) Fund which will allow local authorities make serviced sites in towns and villages available to prospective homeowners at reduced costs.