Sunday 25 February 2018

Ghost estate problems not solved – despite tax

Just 5,100 homes escape property tax

LOUISE McBRIDE

Many of the thousands of residents of so-called ghost estates who found out last week that they now have to cough up for the property tax are still living in problem estates with unfinished facilities and poor amenities, according to a leading expert on ghost estates.

The Department of the Environment said last week that only about 5,100 homes on ghost estates would get off the hook for the property tax this year – a fraction of the 43,000 homes in unfinished estates that were considered exempt from the household charge last year. This means that 38,000 homes on so-called ghost estates, which had not been liable for the household charge, are now bound by the property tax.

Many of the owners of the homes now liable for the property tax are being caught out by a new narrowed-down definition of unfinished housing estates, which only allows owners of properties in estates with "seriously problematic conditions" to get off the hook for the tax, according to Brendan Williams, a lecturer in University College Dublin, who co-wrote a major report on Irish ghost estates in 2010.

"A large part of the estates [which must now pay the property tax] still have unfinished ancillary areas and facilities," said Williams.

"There are still a lot of problems with these developments. The numbers on [the department's] list are very low, particularly for Dublin," he said.

"In Dublin, the only unfinished housing estate on the list is Priory Hall. There are a lot of other unfinished developments in Dublin."

Environment Minister Phil Hogan said last week that the drop in the number of properties eligible for the waiver reflected "the progress made in tackling unfinished housing developments", "improvements made by local authorities in resolving problems in unfinished housing developments", and a new approach to how unfinished estates were categorised.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said: "The original waiver for the household charge included entire developments. It's now down to individual sections so if you're living in a completed section of a development, you have to pay the property tax."

Vacant properties – which attract vandals and anti-social behaviour – are a major problem in ghost estates. There are more than 100,000 vacant properties in Ireland, which is "well beyond international norms", said Williams.

He believes that if the property market recovers, it could take between two and three years for all of the vacant properties in Dublin to be sold.

However, he expects that vacant properties will be "a long-lasting problem" for rural areas.

Irish Independent

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