29 May 2022

New Bill seeks to address ‘the blight’ of vacant and derelict housing in Ireland

Councillor's appeal for action on Offaly's vacant buildings

File photo

Steven Matthews TD, Green Party Spokesperson for Planning and Local Government, and Chair of the Oireachtas Housing and Planning Committee, has today (22nd February) launched the ‘Vacancy, Dereliction and Regeneration Bill 2022’. The Bill seeks to amend existing legislation in relation to vacant and derelict property, taxation measures and the processes of upgrading existing property. 

Deputy Matthews said; “Housing, along with the cost of living, is the most critical issue in Ireland at the moment, spanning every sector of society and every age group. We know there are at least 90,000 vacant homes left idle across the country and our villages, towns and cities are blighted with neglected and derelict buildings. Time is of the essence; we must do everything we can to ensure that as many of these buildings can be added to our housing stock and once again become homes.”

Under the Bill, homes that are vacant for at least 180 days in the preceding year would be subject to a new vacant home tax at 3% of the market value of the property, to be collected by revenue as part of the local property tax. This would be re-paid to the local authority where the vacant property lies, to fund housing needs in the area. The tax would not apply to the principal private residence of the owner and includes a number of key exemptions, including if an owner is in care; if the occupant has moved temporarily for work purposes; if the property is a holiday home; or if the property is undergoing major renovations. An initiative introduced in Vancouver has seen a 25% decrease in vacant property since introducing similar tax measures in 2017.

Deputy Matthews added; “For decades we’ve seen decline in our communities across Ireland, in urban and rural locations. We need to reimagine our existing built environment to create vibrant, liveable villages and towns that will also bring jobs and enhance security and safety. The Green Party is committed to rejuvenating our towns, villages and cities and ensuring they are fit for purpose for individuals and families to live, work and play. In addition to addressing vacant property, this bill also simplifies the planning process and makes it easier for ‘over the shop’ units to be brought back into residential use. This bill is in line with the objectives for the Government Housing for All and Town Centres First strategies.”

Architect Mel Reynolds, whose recent Joint Oireachtas Committee submissions includes papers on building control and costs in the residential sector and the re-use of vacant buildings, said;

“We need a multi-strand approach to address our housing crisis in Ireland that will bring both immediate and long-term solutions to our shortage of homes and struggling communities. Building new houses and apartments is an important part of this but the level of vacant property across the country clearly indicates a huge opportunity in existing building stock, which has potential for single people and families alike.”

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