Friday 14 December 2018

Irish Water plans 'could add €5k to house prices'

Meanwhile, 46,000 households have not yet claimed their water refund new figures show

SINGLE SET OF CHARGES: Irish Water boss Jerry Grant
SINGLE SET OF CHARGES: Irish Water boss Jerry Grant

Fearghal O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

An Irish Water proposal to change how it charges for connecting homes to its network could lead to hikes of up to €5,000 in the cost of new homes, it has been claimed.

Fears have been raised that the move would further hit the supply of housing and reduce affordability for house-buyers.

Separately, Irish Water confirmed that around 46,000 households have yet to claim their water refunds, months after cheques began to issue as a result of the scrapping of the old charges regime.

An analysis of the current and proposed fees for connecting new homes was compiled by industry experts.

The study, seen by the Sunday Independent shows that connection costs will rise by an average of 109pc if the water utility pushes through with its plans.

This is at odds with Irish Water's insistence that costs will fall in most areas.

Anthony Neville, chairman of the Irish Home Builders Association, said that in his own case he had calculated the move would add close to €5,000 to the cost of houses his firm is building in Dublin.

"That is going to add €5,000 on to the house price for first-time buyers," he said,

Mr Neville added that there's "no room to absorb that anywhere because my margins are so tight the banks could just decide to cut my funds due to something like this.

"It is these seemingly small additions that are killing us and stopping purchasers from being able to afford our product," he said.

Irish Water is set to connect 51,000 customers to the water network with an expected revenue value of €315m between 2017 and 2021.

It plans to bring in one nationwide standard charge across every local authority area of €5,636 per house, a substantial rise in many areas, according to the analysis.

The study shows the cost of connections would fall in seven counties but would rise everywhere else and by well over €3,000 a home in many others.

Connection costs will rise sharply in all the Dublin local authority areas apart from Dublin City Council, with rises, too, in Cork, Limerick and Waterford.

In its response Irish Water said there are currently 57 different charging regimes across the 31 local authorities, with different methods for calculating connection charges. It claimed that a new combined water and wastewater charge would lower prices in 53 of the 57 charging regimes. "Irish Water is proposing a single set of connection charges for all customers," it said and added that the proposed changes will bring "simplicity, clarity and transparency" to customers in understanding their connection costs.

Meanwhile, Irish Water has confirmed that around 46,000 households still haven't claimed their domestic water charge refunds.

The utility said that the sum that remains unclaimed comes to approximately €5.7m which represents around 3pc of the water charges paid while the regime was in place.

The utility needs extra information from these customers in order to send out the cheques worth as much as €325.

Cases where refunds have not been issued include situations where the customer has changed address, moved abroad, or where a tenant has moved on from a rental property.

Housing and local government minister Eoghan Murphy told the Dail that there is no cut-off date for the refunds but that the low level of engagement by customers yet to be refunded "suggests that Irish Water may not be able to refund many of these customers". Irish Water said 800 cheques were issued in the first two weeks of March. It is continuing efforts to contact those who are due a refund by email, text message and phone calls in instances where it has the customer's contact details.

Sunday Independent

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