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Only 26 sites told to pay vacant site levy in Dublin city so far this year

Minister Eoghan Murphy has recently claimed that evidence so far of development shows the vacant site levy is working.
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DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL has demanded payment from 26 property owners to pay the vacant site levy so far this year, with a further 260 sites being “considered” as eligible for the tax.

The measure – which is aimed at encouraging development on unused land – came into effect this year but recent figures supplied by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy show that local authorities across the country have only levied 120 sites to pay the tax this year. 

Figures provided by Dublin City Council to TheJournal.ie also show that there are 72 sites that have been entered onto its vacant sites register to date, with plans to issue requests for payment in the near future. 

Minister Murphy has claimed that evidence so far shows the tax is working, but this has been disputed. 

Over 40 appeals have been made to An Bord Pleanála over the Dublin City Council issuing notices for the payment of the vacant site levy, with independent TD Mick Wallace recently telling the Dáil that the tax “is not workable” with “major concerns” over what constitutes a vacant site.

Vacant site levy

The tax was introduced under the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, in an attempt to try to bring vacant land in urban areas back into beneficial use at a time when homelessness is at record levels, as is the cost of rent in Ireland. 

It applies where planning authorities can designate a site liable under the levy where it has remained vacant and site owners/developers failed under certain conditions to bring forward reasonable proposals to develop or reuse the site. 

The rate that a property owner pays is based on its value. While initially set at 3% of the site’s value, some properties will also be liable for a 7% rate annually.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said late last year that his department will also monitor its implementation to see how effective the levy is at achieving its aim of “incentivising the development of vacant or underutilised sites in urban areas”. 

In response to a recent parliamentary question in the Dáil, Minister Murphy said that there are around 360 sites on registers around the country, with 120 of these subject to the levy this year.

“Without any changes to the number of sites currently listed on local authority registers, it is estimated that the levy proceeds nationally could be of the order of €7.6m (applying the current 3% levy rate in respect of sites on the registers in 2018), increasing to €25.5m in 2020 (applying the increased 7% levy rate in respect of sites listed on local authority registers in 2019),” he said.

‘Not about the money’

Murphy has also claimed in recent months that evidence already exists to show that the vacant site levy is working. 

As of this month, the value of land on the vacant site register is around €360 million.

Last week, Mick Wallace put it to Murphy that the levy is “useless” and that “the minister knows it’s useless”. 

Murphy replied: “More than 40 sites that had not been developed are under development since the levy came into effect.”

The minister had previously told the Wexford TD that the government “did not bring in the vacant site levy to bring in money”. 

“We will not measure this based on the amount of money we bring in but on the number of sites we get under construction as a result of bringing in the levy,” Murphy said. 

Earlier this month, he said that his department was liaising with the local authorities and progress they’ve made with the levy to determine if further supports are needed.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council told TheJournal.ie that it will continue to impose the levy with the remaining 260 sites still under consideration to apply the tax. 

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