'Unfinished' estates to face charge next year
HUNDREDS of people exempt from paying the €100 household charge face the prospect of being hit with the tax next year.
This is because four local authorities claim an exemption that allows people living in certain "unfinished" housing developments is being wrongly applied, and that homeowners should be forced to pay.
People living in 1,300 housing developments across the country are exempt from the tax because the Department of the Environment says the estates are unfinished and lacking basic services, such as roads, footpaths, street lighting and sewerage systems.
But yesterday it emerged that councils in Meath, Mayo, Cavan and Dublin have formally requested that some estates be reclassified from the exemption because they are effectively completed.
In one case, residents of the Swiftbrook estate in Virginia, Co Cavan, will avoid the charge even though the only works yet to be completed are a top coat of tar on the roads and a camera survey of the sewerage system.
But Environment Minister Phil Hogan yesterday defended the number of exempt estates, saying the Government was being "understanding" of people who could not access basic household services.
"I'm trying to be genuinely understanding of people," he said.
"They find themselves living in a housing estate that's unfinished or is subject to a liquidation or receivership.
"It's not fair on people who are living in those cases to have to pay for facilities that are not up to the standard they necessarily thought they would be at the time they were buying their house.
"I'm giving them a break on this occasion, but obviously in the context of a full, progressive and fairer system of property tax in 2013 and beyond, it will have to be reviewed again," he added.
The Department of the Environment confirmed that councils in Meath, Mayo, Cavan and Dublin had said that some estates should be taken off the list, with others added.
A spokesman said that the exempt estates were chosen based on a physical survey of each development, and using information supplied by the local authorities.
"There have been some enquiries from local authorities, certainly about the process of getting on the list or making changes to it," he said.
"We have clarified to all that the list was prescribed on the basis of the National Housing Development Survey last year, which local authorities fed into."
He added that a survey of all the estates would take place in the summer, which would result in some developments being reclassified and subject to the charge.
However, the current list would remain in place for the rest of the year.