Empty home tax needed to tackle homelessness, says McVerry Trust

Pre-budget submission calls for tax incentives for landlords to sell to local authorities

The Peter McVerry Trust has called for tax on empty homes and incentives encouraging landlords to sell their property to social housing providers or local authorities.

In its pre-budget submission published on Wednesday, the housing charity proposed a number of measures to deal with the steady exodus of small scale landlords from the private rental sector, which it described as the leading cause of homelessness of single people, couples and families across Ireland.

The charity reiterated calls for the introduction of an empty homes tax on the tens of thousands of empty buildings across Ireland, warning that it was “imperative that local authorities, especially those with acute housing needs and/or high levels of vacancy are given a toolkit to push owners to act”.

The proposed tax would be at least three times the normal local property tax and scale to a maximum level over five years, said the submission.

A zero per cent Vat rate for construction projects involving the reuse of long term vacant buildings, an increase in credit available under the repair and leasing scheme and a reduced rate of capital gains tax for those who sell their properties to housing charities are included in the submission’s proposals.

Sustainable model

The document called for €200 million in investment for capital housing projects to ramp up the delivery of one-bedroom homes in the next 12 to 18 months, warning of “an acute under supply” of accommodation for single people.

Tax benefits should also be introduced so that landlords feel compelled to sell their property to a social housing provider or a local authority. This would allow tenants to remain in situ and facilitate a shift to a more sustainable model of social housing, said the charity.

The trust recommends that the threshold for the mortgage-to-rent scheme be increased to €50,000 to enable more households to qualify for the scheme and to bring an end to the issue of long term mortgage arrears.

A bursary scheme for children growing up in homelessness or in State residential care settings is needed to ensure that any child who wants to pursue third level or further education has the support to do so, said the charity. It also called for funding to increase employment and job retention rates among people who are homeless.

It said a review of the social worker bursary scheme is also needed to encourage more people to take up a career in social work and increase the number of qualified staff available to work with people who are homeless.

“As an organisation, we concentrate our energies on identifying and delivering solutions to the needs of people who are impacted by homelessness,” said chief executive of the trust Pat Doyle.

“The proposed actions set out in our pre-budget submission today are all about putting in place more solutions to tackle the homeless crisis.”