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Milestone for Ireland's vacant sites regime

Words: Roger Milne
Empty land / Shutterstock_222405685

The chief executive of the state’s housing agency, John O’Connor, is reported to have warned ministers against increasing the vacant sites levy from 3 per cent to 7 per cent from 2020.

The anti-land hoarding levy, payable for the first time this month (January 2019), is being unevenly applied across the state, leaving it open to challenge, according to O’Connor.

He is quoted as saying: “The vacant site levy is a very important measure in terms of getting residential development happening… It is important that it’s implemented uniformly across the country. We have 31 local authorities and they are all implementing it differently. My view is it needs to be rigorously uniform.”

Since last January, local authorities have had the power to impose a levy on property owners who fail to develop prime housing land. Councils are expected to compile a vacant site register. The levy, set at 3 per cent of the value of the land in 2018, is to be increased to 7 per cent subsequently.

To attract the levy, vacant sites must be bigger than 0.05 of a hectare, most of the site must be “vacant or idle” for more than 12 months and be in an area in need of housing.

According to the Irish Times, sites worth more than €300 million have been added to the register by local authorities. Most are in the Dublin City Council area, where sites worth more than €203 million have been identified. The highest-profile sites are the former Player Wills cigarette factory on the South Circular Road, valued at €23.8 million, and its neighbouring site, the former Bailey Gibson packaging plant, valued at €12.5 million.

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