Property tax and housing crisis


Sir, – There are many dimensions to making provision for the ample supply of housing in our towns and cities, most of which have already been aired in the media.

However, we have not yet seriously considered ways of incentivising empty-nesters to trade down. I do realise that this can be an emotive issue and it will take ingenuity and courage on the part of our lawmakers to achieve such a goal.

But if we can establish the habit of downsizing, this will free up the housing market considerably, create a more regular turnover of housing stock and bring down the price of housing, generally, in the long term.

Our current approach to the residential property tax (RPT) is punitive in the extreme for the average family trying to pay for childcare, mortgages, etc.

So why not consider the abolition of RPT completely on the first 100 square metres of a family home and, concomitantly, increase the rate charged for the portion of the property above 100 square metres?

In this way, there would be little or nothing to pay on the average family home, with the burden being shifted to families with larger homes, based on the number of children living there.

Also, I would envisage that a progressive system of RPT could be introduced similar to our current income tax system, whereby the larger the house, the higher the rate of tax payable.

Unlike the infamous proposed water charges, a residential property tax based on an exemption of the first 100 square metres would be simple to monitor, and retrospective penalties could apply to false declarations. Under this system of RPT, there would be an obvious incentive for people living in properties that are excess to requirements to downsize.

The planning authorities would need to take this into account in granting planning for a variety of housing sizes and types in a given area, so that trading up or down would not necessitate moving away from schools that children are currently attending, or from the area that couples have lived in all their married lives.

A further incentive for the empty-nesters might be to abolish the payment of stamp duty when downsizing to a smaller property. Also, empty-nesters who downsize between the ages of 60 and 66 years might be given early access to free travel.

On the question of the current homeless crisis, perhaps the present threshold of €14,000 that property owners can earn before paying tax on rental income could be increased to €20,000, until such time as homelessness falls below an agreed threshold.

The damage homelessness inflicts on the people involved far outweighs the financial cost of remedying the situation. Much of this damage is not quantifiable, but it takes little imagination to conjure up the difficulties experienced by homeless people in such harrowing situations.

It’s not easy to wake up each morning to learn about the growing number of people living on our streets and in our parks. What must it be like to experience such deprivation? What an indictment on the governance of this country during the past ten years. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.