Vacant homes tax must be underpinned in Budget, say unions

 

Ireland’s two largest trade unions today (Thursday) called on the Government to introduce a substantial vacant homes tax – with only exceptional limitations – in the forthcoming budget. Welcoming this week’s comments by housing minister Eoghan Murphy, who “put private property owners on notice” regarding vacant home penalties, IMPACT and SIPTU said the stance would lack credibility if it were not reflected in both the Budget and the forthcoming Vacant Homes Strategy.

IMPACT Lead Organiser Joe O’Connor said the Government could and should make a vacant homes tax effective from 1st January 2018. And he warned that it should be based on annual rental values – as it is in Paris – in order to be an effective and credible tool in tackling homelessness and the cost of housing.

“There has been too much carrot and not enough stick in the Government’s approach to irresponsible landlords and property owners. As a result, the housing and rental crisis has worsened. While a vacant property tax won’t be enough to solve the problem, it would be a quick, simple and fair way to bring existing housing stock back into use,” he said.

Mr O’Connor also called on the Government to fast-track the proposed vacant site levy, which is due to come into effect in January 2019.

The most recent figures from the Central Statistics Office identified over 183,000 vacant houses and apartments, and over 62,000 holiday homes with no-one living in them.

SIPTU Head of Campaigning and Equality Karan O’Loughlin said: “It is just incredible that so many homes are vacant when we have hundreds of children and thousands of families without a home, and thousands more in unsuitable living conditions. The vacant homes tax is in the public interest and needs to be robust enough to be effective in releasing much needed properties to stem the growing numbers in housing distress. Exemptions should only be exceptional and in those circumstances, perhaps such as the fair deal scheme, where property owners may be in care facilities. Other positive incentives should be created to facilitate the release of properties for rent.”