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How many vacant properties are there in Ireland? We should get a clear answer in a couple of weeks

Local property tax data will give an up-to-date picture of vacancy rates in Ireland.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

PROPERTY OWNERS COULD find out in a matter of weeks if they could be subject to a vacant property tax.

Up until now, the sheer scale of vacant properties dotted around Ireland has been largely unknown.

Experts, such as architect Mel Reynolds, recently told the Oireachtas Housing Committee that it is estimated there could be 137,000 vacant homes across the country at present.  

But clarity will be brought to the issue in a couple of weeks, it is understood, when data compiled from the local property tax returns will be published.

A report on the number of homes that a vacant property tax would apply to is currently being considered by the Department of Finance.

The Government has committed to bringing in vacant property tax this year, but held off on bringing in the measure last year, stating it would be preferred to wait for an up-to-date picture of vacancy rates in Ireland through the local property tax returns, which were completed in November 2021.

A Department of Finance spokesperson said the local property tax returns completed last year enabled Revenue to collect certain information in relation to the occupancy of each residential property and, where unoccupied, the reason and duration for this.

Local property tax returns

“Revenue have completed a preliminary analysis of the LPT returns received to date which has recently been shared with the Department. We anticipate that information in relation to this analysis will be available in the coming weeks,” a statement said. 

An accurate picture of just how many vacant properties exist around the country could be published in just two weeks, it is believed. 

It comes as an Oireachtas Committee on Housing report this week called for a vacant property tax to be introduced by the Government.

The report cites evidence given to the committee by architect Mel Reynolds who estimates that there are currently 137,000 vacant homes at present. 

At the launch of the Government’s Housing for All plan last September, Minister Darragh O’Brien confirmed that a vacant property tax would be introduced in 2022 in order “to ensure empty properties are used”.

At the time, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said legislation will be brought in next year, with the tax being applied to vacant homes from the end of 2022, with payment collected in 2023.

Varadkar said it “might be possible” to collect the tax next year, but details are still being worked on. 

Vacant property tax 

In an interview in December, minister O’Brien told The Journal that there will be no delay in rolling out the vacant property tax.

“We will proceed with a vacant property tax. It’s needed. But it needs to be based on real data. And that’s why I think the local property tax returns is the right things to do,” he said.

“All of your readers will know there are vacant properties out there that aren’t being used for various reasons, and we need to get them back into use. Not just in Dublin, but right across the country.”

In relation to newer properties that have been bought up and left vacant, the minister said “that can’t be allowed to continue”. 

There has been particular anger at reports that high-end apartment blocks are lying idle, with the Business Post highlighting last year that, in midst of a crisis, 100 out of 190 apartments in the 22-storey Capital Dock building near Grand Canal Dock in Dublin were lying vacant.

Following such reports, O’Brien said he wanted to target investment funds that have large swathes of apartments lying empty.

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The minister said this week that data from the local property tax is being collated in the Department of Finance.  

“We have clearly set out an objective within Housing for All that we will move on a vacant property tax. It is not the silver bullet.  It is one of several measures we can take. Work is not yet finalised,” he told the Dáil.

It is understood that some empty properties will not be taxed and exemptions will apply, due to the “legitimate and genuine reasons” why a property may be vacant.

A source said the idea behind such a tax would not be a revenue raising tax, rather it would act as a disincentive to leaving homes, which could otherwise provide much needed housing, vacant.

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