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Housing Crisis

'An embarrassment': Opposition parties say Government's vacancy tax ineffective and half-baked

Figures released yesterday show that just 3,000 properties were deemed eligible to pay the vacancy tax.

OPPOSITION PARTIES HAVE criticised the Government for the low level of properties chargeable for a vacant property tax and said the tax is “miles off” making a difference to the housing crisis. 

The Department of Finance yesterday released initial figures from Vacant Homes Tax (VHT) returns, which showed that just 3,000 properties were deemed liable for the tax in the last year.

This was out of a total of 50,000 properties Revenue identified as potentially liable for the tax.

The self-assessed Vacant Homes Tax was introduced in 2022 to bring more habitable homes back into use in light of the housing crisis. 

Of the 50,000 properties identified as potentially liable for the tax, 45,000 of these were reported as occupied by the owners. 

Of the remaining 5,000 deemed vacant, 2,000 were eligible for an exemption from the tax. 

Commenting on the figures, Social Democrats’ housing spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan said the tax as it currently stands is “miles off making a meaningful difference to this country’s housing crisis.”

“Revenue monitored electricity usage to identify an initial 25,000 vacant homes that were issued with letters asking the owners to pay the Vacant Homes Tax.

“This makes it particularly frustrating that just 3,000 homes so far are being charged the tax – a drop in the ocean in terms of Ireland’s true level of empty properties,” O’Callaghan said. 

He added that significant work needs to be done to make the tax effective. 

The issue of vacancy was raised in the Dáil today by both Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Labour leader Ivana Bacik. 

Doherty agreed that the number of properties deemed liable for the tax was too low and added that the tax itself was too low to be a deterrent.

Currently, the tax is at a rate three times that of the local property tax and must be paid by the start of January. 

In this year’s Budget, the Government increased the tax to five times the property’s local property tax charge for next year.

Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said yesterday’s figures were “an embarrassment that show Government is not serious about tackling vacancy and dereliction.”

“‘Leaving homes vacant or derelict during a housing crisis is like hoarding food during a famine. It is simply not acceptable.

“Government has for years been talking about its intention to tackle the scourge of vacancy and dereliction,” he said. 

Exemptions

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said that a review is needed of the exemptions to the tax and also called for the tax to be increased.

“To get to grips with the scale of the vacancy and dereliction problem nationwide, a scourge on all our communities, Labour called for an increased Vacant Homes Tax, with a €2,000 minimum charge.

“We are now urging Government to examine the extensive exemptions list and drive change in the housing market,” she said.

Bacik added that Local Authorities need to be given “teeth and funding” to tackle the vacancy crisis.

“Government have no central database for the number of vacant properties nationwide, so how can they ensure that everyone who should be liable for the vacant home tax is declaring themselves?

“If Government collated this data effectively and if an identified property remains empty, then the Vacant Housing Officers in each local authority could be resourced to proceed with CPO proceedings. Each local authority could have targets on returning vacant and derelict properties into use.

“That would truly bring about change for those on the hard end of the housing crisis,” she said.

The Taoiseach said in the Dáil today that the Government has never argued that the vacant home tax would be “some sort of a silver bullet”.

“You need a set of measures, incentives, disincentives, carrot and stick, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” he said.

Some 166,000 vacant homes were identified in the 2022 Census, with 48,000 of these empty for over six years.

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