I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 117 together.
Under the vacant site levy provisions of the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, planning authorities are empowered to apply a vacant site levy of 3% of the market value of relevant vacant sites. These arrangements commenced in respect of vacant sites included on local authority vacant site registers prior to 1 January 2018 with payment of the levy due in January 2019.
When I was appointed Minister, I initiated a review of the measure and introduced amendments under the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018 aimed at further strengthening the vacant site levy provisions. These amendments included increasing the rate of the levy from 3% to 7% for sites on local authority vacant site registers from 2019 onwards and the removal of the possibility of applying reduced or zero rates of levy for sites on registers that are subject to a site loan which is greater than a specified percentage of the market value of the site, reflecting the improved economic circumstances and higher property prices since the levy measure was originally introduced.
The inclusion of sites on vacant sites registers continues to be determined by the criteria provided for in section 5 of the 2015 Act, subject to the site not exceeding 0.05 ha in area. I am satisfied that the existing minimum size threshold of 0.05 ha reflects the appropriate size of a vacant site that should be targeted with a view to maximising return from the measure, thereby enhancing its effectiveness. To give some context, 0.05 ha is about 500 sq. m or about 5% of the size of a rugby pitch, on which it would be possible to build a maximum of two to three small houses or three to four small apartments.
My Department does not maintain a central register of vacant sites, as each local authority administers the vacant site register in respect of its functional area. A recent review of the online vacant site registers across all local authority areas shows there are collectively more than 360 individual sites currently on the local registers. Over 120 of these sites were entered on the local vacant site registers on 1 January 2018 and are therefore subject to the levy in 2019, unless development works were activated in the interim.
As of 14 March 2019, sites with a value of €416 million were listed on local authority vacant site registers, of which €281 million related to sites listed on the registers prior to 1 January 2018. Without any changes to the number of sites currently listed on local authority registers, it is estimated that the levy proceeds nationally could be of the order of €8.4 million, applying the current 3% levy rate in respect of sites on the registers in 2018, increasing to €29.1 million in 2020, applying the increased 7% levy rate in respect of sites listed on local authority registers in 2019.
Levy implementation progress reports were requested from local authorities late last year and all local authorities have submitted responses. These responses are currently being examined by my Department with a view to determining what, if any, further implementation supports may be required, as well as publishing the progress reports. I can in the meantime arrange for copies of the progress reports to be made available to the Deputy if he so wishes.