Pre-1915 buildings are targeted for use as homes
Tax incentive to boost numbers living in cities
Thousands of historic buildings will be freed up for new homes to help boost the number of people living in city centres.
The Government has been given clearance by the European Commission to offer tax incentives to families and developers who renovate pre-1915 buildings for residential and commercial use.
It will have an impact in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Kilkenny, the Irish Independent has learned.
The move comes amid concern about the under-use of older properties, particularly in run-down parts of cities which would benefit from regeneration. In many cases, only the ground floor is occupied which is resulting in tens of thousands of square metres of 'dead' space above. This could be utilised for homes and businesses.
Dublin City Council said the move could result in the delivery of as many as 8,000 apartments in the city centre.
It also revealed it was considering relaxing its building standards to allow smaller units to be developed, with areas earmarked for regeneration including the Thomas Street-St James's Street corridor, the north and south Georgian core and radial routes into the city, for example, around Aungier Street and Phibsborough.
The Department of Finance confirmed that identifying these "special regeneration areas" was at an advanced stage following discussions with local authorities in the six counties.
"An order will be made to designate the special regeneration areas and a commencement order will need to be made to bring the relief into operation," it said in a statement.
"Work on this initiative is at a very advanced stage and we intend to launch the initiative soon."
There are almost 150,000 pre-1915 properties across the State, but the number which could benefit will not be known until the Government designates eligible areas under the so-called 'Living City Initiative'.
There will be two types of relief available, which will cover buildings with a total floor area between 38 square metres and 210 square metres.
The first will be for owner-occupiers of residential units, who will be allowed write off the cost of refurbishments against their tax bills over 10 years. In cases where a building is split into units, each owner can claim a portion of the tax relief.
For commercial buildings, the relief is capped at €200,000 claimed over seven years.
The initiative will be of particular benefit in Dublin, where demand for homes is highest.
The council is also taking action to encourage development across some 282 vacant sites in the area bordered by the Grand and Royal canals, which comprise 62 hectares.
Dublin City Council owns 59 of these sites, across nine hectares, and is currently seeking expressions of interest from private developers on sites in Malahide, Oscar Traynor Road and Cherry Orchard.
A spokesman said it could sell vacant and derelict sites to help boost housing provision in the city, and was also identifying school sites with the Department of Education.
"We're not static, we're active and looking to use our land bank to try and address housing supply," the spokesman said.
"We have to ensure we have the policies in place to consolidate the city. We're still pushing to get more people living in the city centre.
"We have land zoned for residential purposes in the city which is capable of taking 30,000 units. The city has a requirement for 8,000 units per annum, and more than enough capacity is in place."
Current building standards in the council require that each one-bedroom home is at least 55 square metres. These could be relaxed for the Living City Initiative, as many older properties would not be able to accommodate a unit this size.
But the council is also looking at specific measures to encourage other types of housing. One includes setting standards for bespoke accommodation for the elderly, where units could be smaller.
This is to free up family-sized homes which may be too big for the current owners.
The council is also employing a conservation architect to produce templates for how Georgian buildings can be redeveloped for use as family homes.