Rabbitte defends cut in number to avoid tax

Labour Minister Pat Rabbitte has defended a slashing of the number of residents in ghost estates who are entitled to exemptions of the property tax.

Just 5,100 households in unfinished estates will be entitled to property tax waivers as opposed to the 43,000 properties which were exempt from the household charge last year.

Opposition TDs queried why fewer than one in eight homes previously exempt from the charge were entitled to waivers for the tax.

The communications minister said many estates had been finished and local authorities had done a detailed survey of services in developments in concluding the limited numbers who are now exempt.

“The Department of the Environment, Community, and Local Government assures me that it has gone through the estates one by one and taken decisions on their standards,” he said.

Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath queried why a housing report last year found there were some 1,100 unfinished developments in a “seriously problematic condition” and that these had now been reduced to just 421 estates.

Seven out of eight people living in unfinished housing estates who were exempt from last year’s household charge would now be required to pay the property tax, he argued. “Grave inconsistency and unfairness are running through the way in which the property tax is being introduced,” Mr McGrath said.

Mr Rabbitte said the previous housing report was now out of date. He blamed the condition of unfinished estates on the “chronic mismanagement” of the economy under the previous Fianna Fáil-led government.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said it was difficult to accept that in less than a year, the number of unfinished estates had more than halved.

Mr Rabbitte said: “The exclusion of 421 developments is considered fair in terms of one neighbour being required to pay property tax and another being exempt.”

Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan later revealed there would be no appeals mechanism for households in ghost estates listed as now having to pay the tax.

She said authorities had surveyed estates and found in some that only a few houses were unfinished, while completion works had also been carried out on others.

Previous figures on the number of incomplete houses in estates were “inaccurate”, Ms O’Sullivan told RTÉ.

Only estates with serious problems or without developers would be exempt from the tax, she said.

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