Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central, Thomas Gould, has today introduced the Derelict Sites (Amendment) Bill 2022 in the Dáil.
The Bill would see local authorities who fail to collect 75% of the Derelict Sites Levies owed to them, responsible for publishing a report that will outline why these levies aren’t being collected and how they will be collected.
Teachta Gould said:
“I have spent a lot of time over the last 13 years that I have been a public representative, and particularly the last two years as a TD, raising issues of dereliction.
“I’ve walked dereliction in Cork. I’ve met with local authorities. I’ve raised it in the Dáil Chamber. I’ve questioned witnesses at the Housing Committee.
“And so often, from those in positions to resolve dereliction, I have heard the same phrases: ‘Dereliction is complicated’, ‘there is no one solution’, ‘it requires a lot of manpower’.
“Yet, there is a tool available to local authorities that could actually have a significant impact on their ability to tackle dereliction.
“The Derelict Sites Act was introduced in 1990. A key tool in this Act is the Derelict Sites Levy. It’s not an optional tax. It is supposed to be a fine paid by land hoarders for leaving homes to rot.
“There are properties that have been on the Derelict Sites Registers since they were established. We are talking about properties that have sat on registers, sat empty and rotting, for at least 32 years.
“A lot of local authorities have failed to do their job by not putting sites on their registers and not collecting levies. Successive governments have turned a blind eye and let them do this.
“They have always preferred to line the pockets of developers than tackle land hoarders and speculators.
“In 2021, 19 local authorities didn’t collect a red cent in Derelict Sites Levies. Some of these Councils are owed well in excess of €100,000. Overall, local authorities collected on average 32% of the amounts levied. There is still an outstanding debt of over twelve million euro.
“Now, this is a huge improvement on where we were in 2020 when local authorities collected less than 7% of the amounts levied on average.
“This shows the impact those of us working on Dereliction are having. We have seen huge progress in Cork City’s collection of the levy. We’re still not there but working with people like Jude Sherry and Frank O’Connor, we are starting to make a difference.
“But the reality is that there is still twelve million euro in untapped revenue in this state. This is money sitting in the pockets of speculators and land hoarders that could be used to transform Derelict Ireland.
“If local authorities collected the full levy, this additional money could be transformative. We know that the sites on the Register are only a drop in the ocean of dereliction – Galway county for example has one site on their register. That doesn’t reflect the reality on the ground.
“Full collection of the levy could mean extra resourcing to inspect sites, to value them and to put them on registers.
“This legislation is a simple tool to increase accountability and transparency and increase collection of the levies. Ultimately, we want to stop people from leaving these homes to rot.
“Where a local authority collects less than 75% of the levies owed to them, they will be required to produce a comprehensive report.
“In this report, they will need to outline how they will collect the outstanding levies and why they didn’t collect them in the first place. The Minister will then respond. This means that we will finally have answers.
“If local authorities need more resources, it will be there in black and white and the responsibility will be on the Minister. And people are right, there is no one solution to dereliction.
“This won’t resolve it either. But it’s another step forward and it’s another tool in the belt of those of us who do want to end dereliction.
“We are in the middle of a Housing Crisis. We have tens of thousands of families and workers and young people without their own secure accommodation. We have hundreds of thousands of people who are locked out of long-term stable housing.
“There has never been a good time to let houses rot. But leaving them to rot in the middle of a Housing Crisis is morally wrong and needs to be punished.
“This state has tried the softly softly approach with land hoarders. It is now time to make them pay. A rotting house could still be a home.
“A home that is better for the environment, that is often cheaper than starting from scratch and a home that a family could live in quickly.”