News & Media

Vacant Home Tax tool in the armoury to tackle housing crisis

17 May 2021

Statement by Senator Rebecca Moynihan
Seanad Leader and spokesperson on Housing, Local Government and Heritage

Labour housing spokesperson Rebecca Moynihan has urged the Government to consider a Vacant Home Tax to bring empty housing stock into use for those who need it.

People are rightly outraged at the degree to which the Government is prioritising investors over hard working ordinary people in the midst of a housing crisis. Senator Moynihan called on Government to take action to discourage funds gobbling up housing supply through a levy on vacant homes.

Senator Moynihan said:

“Last week, we recommended that the Minister use the powers already available under the Planning and Development Act to issue guidelines to local authorities prioritising planning permission for owner occupiers, not funds. It’s extremely important that this would apply to new apartment developments as well as family homes in suburban estates. We need to ensure a mix of accommodation is available in the housing system to offer options to single people, couples and families in cities, commuter areas and towns nationwide

“However, using the planning laws will take time and the Government need to employ more immedidate tax penalties to ensure that investors are not using their position to keep rents high.

“The news in the Business Post this weekend that Government is not only leading with an investor strategy to resolve our housing crisis but actively investing in these deals is a scandal. The Government should not be on the other side of these deals. The fact that they have bypassed local Councillors, representatives on the frontline devoted to providing social housing, is outrageous. It’s clear that an urgent policy rethink is required.

“If you walk around most cities in the country, there are many empty apartment complexes with plastic still on the mattresses. It’s a shocking sight given the depth of our housing crisis that there is supply out there, but it is totally unaffordable and unattainable for those who need it most. To tackle the Government’s overreliance on investment funds making a quick buck at the expense of people, it is time for a Vacant Home Tax.

“The thousands of vacant homes across the country can be accessed quickly to help alleviate the housing crisis. CSO figures in 2016 said there were up to 200,000 vacant homes, but we need to get a clear picture of the actual figure of potential supply for people. We know from analysis from the Business Post that large build to rent complexes such as Clancey Quay and Capital Dock are not fully occupied. This is a scandal and should be stopped.

“A targeted Vacant Home Tax, the creation of vacant home units in all county councils, and the implementation of the vacant homes strategy would free up housing that our society badly needs. Properties should not be lying empty for long periods of time when people are crying out for a safe and secure place to live. This Vacant Home Tax should apply to homes left empty for more than 6 months without a valid reason.

“It is an absolute scandal that while thousands of people have no proper home, many properties continue to lie vacant. Home ownership should be a legitimate aspiration for people. It should not be seen as an investment opportunity for huge funds that only care about their bottom line. Government needs to rethink its approach and fast.”