Thursday, 17 April 2014

Questions (171)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

171. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the residents of unfinished residential housing estates may acquire exemption from liability for local property tax if it is demonstrated that the conditions in the estate have disimproved to a point at which, consistent with the methodology used in the national housing survey, they would have been assessed as exempt at the time the local property tax was introduced; if not, if he intends to rectify this oversight [18315/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under Section 10 of the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012 a waiver from liability can arise for properties located in developments prescribed on a list made by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government where the Minister is satisfied that the developments on the list are incomplete to a substantial extent, having regard to the condition of public infrastructure and amenities, including access, water services, public lighting and amenity areas. An exemption from the Local Property Tax applies to developments listed in the Schedule to the Finance (Local Property Tax) Regulations 2013. The list of unfinished housing developments eligible for the exemption was compiled by local authorities utilising the categorisation employed for the purposes of the National Housing Survey 2012. The survey was carried out over the course of summer 2012 by my Department in conjunction with local authorities and the Housing Agency.

Only developments that were deemed by local authorities to be in a “seriously problematic condition”, regardless of whether a developer was on or off site, were included in the Finance (Local Property Tax) Regulations 2013. 

The objective is to eliminate , to the greatest extent possible, the need for Local Property Tax waivers in respect of Unfinished Housing Developments as soon as possible and a number of approaches, as outlined below, have been adopted towards achieving this objective.

The development of Site Resolution Plans (SRPs), agreed between residents, developers, funders and local authority personnel for the finalisation of works on site to render estates as habitable as possible, have been pivotal in resolving a large number of estates. In the 2013 National Housing Survey, of the 1,811 estates inspected, there were 607 in some stage of SRPs. Specifically, 281 were agreed and ready for implementation, 213 had commenced while 113 had been completed. I believe that a continuation of this collaborative approach serves the best interests of all concerned and is an effective tool in the resolution process.

The Public Safety Initiative (PSI), which was launched in March 2011, also provided funding to address immediate public safety issues in unfinished housing developments.  The types of works that have been approved to date under the PSI include the fencing off of unsecured and hazardous areas, capping of pipes, installation of street lighting and other works to secure sites. Under the PSI, my Department has made allocations totalling €4.5m to local authorities from the funding made available. To date, €3.26m has been drawn down.

To assist further in addressing the legacy of unfinished housing developments, Budget 2014 contained a special provision, in the form of a targeted €10m Special Resolution Fund (SRF). The SRF has been proposed to encourage the resolution of the remaining tranche of unfinished developments identified in the National Housing Development Survey 2013 and, particularly, those developments not likely to be resolved in the normal way through solely developer/owner/funder action because of the presence of specific financial barriers. It is envisaged that the SRF should be particularly targeted to address the remaining unfinished developments with residents living in them and, in particular, any developments that local authorities identified, for the purposes of the Local Property Tax waiver, as in a seriously problematic condition. I expect that my Department will be in a position to finalise its consideration of the SRF applications in the very near future. I anticipate that the SRF will enable very substantial progress to be made in resolving as many of the remaining unfinished developments as possible.

The Report, Resolving Unfinished Housing Developments: Annual Progress Report on Actions to Address Unfinished Housing Developments, published in November 2013, is available on the Housing Agency website, at http://www.housing.ie/Our-Services/Unfinished-Housing-Developments.aspx, and appends a Summary Report of the 2013 National Housing Development Survey. The key findings of the survey include: a 56% decrease in the number of remaining unfinished developments and a 72% decrease in the number of vacant units since 2010.

Through the above approaches, supported by the findings of the 2013 National Housing Development Survey, the general trend is towards improvement in the conditions of such developments and the situation should improve further over the lifetime of the SRF. There are no plans to revise the list of developments included in the Schedule to the Finance (Local Property Tax) Regulations 2013, either by removing or adding developments to it, at this time.