24 May 2022

60 vacant homes in one Offaly town as new bill emerges to tackle problem

60 vacant homes in one Offaly town as new bill emerges to tackle problem

File photo

The ‘Vacancy Dereliction and Regeneration Bill 2022’ launched this week as been welcomed in Offaly with the scourge of vacant homes in the county once again being highlighted.

The bill was launched by Steven Matthews TD, Green Party Spokesperson for Planning and Local Government, and Chair of the Oireachtas Housing and Planning Committee and has been widely supported by his Green colleagues in Offaly.

Edenderry Municipal District councillor Mark Hackett said: “A least 90,000 vacant homes are left idle across this country at a time when we have a housing crisis. Neglected and derelict buildings are spoiling our town centres when they could be turned into homes. Thanks to the work of my colleague Cllr Noel Cribbin (Fine Gael), we know that there are at least 60 vacant homes in Edenderry.

"This is where my focus is and why I welcome this Bill. There are obstacles facing families and owners in bringing these homes back into use and this Bill will streamline the process and make it more affordable for people. This is a win-win for owner, potential occupier, and our society.”

Offaly Minister Pippa Hackett added: “This is something I raised in my early days as a councillor on Offaly County Council and something which, more generally, has been Green Party policy for many years, so I welcome this Bill. Homes that are vacant for at least 180 days in the preceding year would be subject to a new vacant home tax at 3% of the market value of the property, to be collected by revenue as part of the local property tax. This would be re-paid to the local authority where the vacant property lies, which for example, could fund housing needs in across the Midlands.”

The tax would not apply to the principal private residence of the owner and includes a number of key exemptions, including if an owner is in care; if the occupant has moved temporarily for work purposes; if the property is a holiday home; or if the property is undergoing major renovations. An initiative introduced in Vancouver has seen a 25% decrease in vacant property since introducing similar tax measures in 2017.

Deputy Matthews added: “We need to reimagine our existing built environment to create vibrant, liveable villages and towns that will also bring jobs and enhance security and safety. The Green Party is committed to rejuvenating our towns, villages and cities and ensuring they are fit for purpose for individuals and families to live, work and play. In addition to addressing vacant property, this bill also simplifies the planning process and makes it easier for ‘over the shop’ units to be brought back into residential use. This bill is in line with the objectives for the Government Housing for All and Town Centres First strategies.”

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