Register finds almost 20,000 homes could be built on vacant sites nationally

Eight local authorities have yet to collect levies on idle properties
Register finds almost 20,000 homes could be built on vacant sites nationally
More than 350 sites have been added to the vacant sites register nationally, enough to see 19,515 homes developed. File Picture.

Almost 20,000 homes could be built on 352 individual vacant sites across the country.

Figures from the updated Vacant Sites Register, which was established to prevent the hoarding of land which could potentially be used for housing, show that eight local authorities have no register at all or no sites registered.

It also revealed that the majority of councils are yet to collect any vacant site levies, with around €18.6m in fines unpaid as of May 31.

In an effort to encourage local authorities to crack down on land hoarding, the housing department sought an update on the registers in recent weeks. As of the end of May, local authorities reported a combined 352 sites had been added to vacant sites registers and are subject to fines.

Some 89 of these sites are subject to levies of 3% of their value, with the remaining 211 sites subject to levies of 7% after the Government increased the rate to motivate building.

In total, local authorities estimated that 19,515 homes could be built on these sites.

The documents, issued to the Irish Examiner, reveal that local authorities in Galway County, Monaghan, Cavan, Kerry, Leitrim, Louth, Mayo and Offaly have either yet to establish a register or have no sites registered.

Monaghan County Council said it has “no plans to enter sites on the register”, Offaly County Council blamed a turnover in staff, and Mayo County Council said An Bord Pleanála removed all 15 of the sites it identified after appeals.

Kilkenny County Council also criticised An Bord Pleanála, claiming the board challenged its efforts to enter vacant sites on the register, overturning decisions on 10 possible sites.

Meanwhile, some 27 of the 31 councils have failed to collect any levies for vacant sites in their areas.

Waterford County Council claimed the collection of levies was “slow at best” and highlighted a lack of resources to tackle the issue.

In Cork city and county, no levy has been collected for 28 and 42 hectares of land, respectively.

At a combined value of more than €24m, the vacant sites across Cork city and county could handle about 2,600 homes, the councils said in their reports.

Cork County Council claimed it will issue demand letters in the coming months and that “outstanding debt will be pursued through normal debt recovery procedures”, while Cork City Council issued demand letters in March 2020 and plans to send follow-up letters to landowners in September this year.

Some €97m worth of land is currently vacant in Dublin City Council's local authority area alone, which could house more than 4,000 homes.

While Dublin City Council collected more than €200,000 in vacant sites levies this year, a further €5.9m remains outstanding.

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said fines will remain valid until they are paid.

“Some local authorities noted delays in issuing demands for payments in 2020 due to Covid-19,” the spokesperson said.

“All levies due on an individual site will remain a charge on the land concerned until all outstanding levies due are paid.

“Accordingly, under the vacant site levy provisions, there will be a cumulative effect associated with not activating a site for development purposes for each year that a site remains vacant or idle,” he added.

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