‘The Numbers That Are Really Vacant Are Actually Much Smaller’

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Census 2016 figures and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy

You may recall the Census 2016 figures which showed 183, 312 vacant houses in Ireland – excluding vacant holiday homes.

And yesterday’s figures showing 8,160 people were registered as homeless in the last week of July.

Further to this…

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke to journalists following the emergency housing summit in Custom House this morning.

While speaking to them, Mr Varadkar raised the subject of vacant houses.

He said:

On the vacant house tax, that is something that’s under consideration but, again, a very interesting discussion with the Chief Executives today if you take for example Fingal or Galway where they’ve actually gone out to the individual houses to see how many are vacant while the CSO may say there’s a certain number and geocodes say there’s another number, when the council staff have actually gone out to the houses and apartments and knocked on doors, they’ve found that the numbers that are really vacant are actually much smaller than any of the figures show.”

Pic: Michael Lehane

Earlier: When Anthony Met The Housing Minister

26 thoughts on “‘The Numbers That Are Really Vacant Are Actually Much Smaller’

  1. Rob_G

    A more equitable property tax is needed; a vacant property is too difficult to define.

    Taxman: “This property is vacant”.

    Developer: “No it isn’t – this is where I store my old pallets and cardboard boxes”

    Taxman: “…”

    A property tax based on site value, or on the square footage of the property.

    1. gerry

      I don’t think this situation is likely to occur. If the premises is in commercial use then rates will apply. If it is vacant then it is likely rates exempt. Unless the tax is higher than rates it would be better to pay the tax.

      1. Rob_G

        Market value I would disagree with, as it would act as a financial disincentive to doing things like insulating your house to a higher standard, etc.

        1. Fact Checker

          Your point is that vacancy is hard to determine. I agree.

          I would also contend that accurate estimates of site value and/or square footage are very hard to determine.

          Taxes have lot of objectives but one should be simplicity. LPT is a very simple tax. What you are proposing is not, and would give rise to all sorts of complexity, special pleading, exemptions, compliance costs, etc.

          Keep it simple.

          PS: insulating your home is virtuous but will not impact its market value very much.

          1. DavidT

            “I would also contend that accurate estimates of site value and/or square footage are very hard to determine.”

            What?

            What’s hard about those two figures?

          2. Rob_G

            Market value tax would also fall disproportionately on people living Dublin; people in a small 2 bedroom house in Rathmines would end up paying more than the person living in a McMansion in the midlands.

            (this would be the case for a site value tax as well; maybe the square foot one is the one I like the most…)

          3. Rob_G

            Also re: market value tax –

            If a developer was hoarding derelict sites in the city centre, he would be paying a lot less than the person who owned a building on the same block (but who was using it productively).

            A site value tax would have them paying the same tax, and act as more of an incentive to do something with the derelict sites.

          4. Fact Checker

            The value of a site absent the buildings on it is a highly abstract concept. You would need a complicated methdology for figuring it out and you would have lots of dispute.

            For square footage:
            -Do you include attics? If so, right up to the eaves? What about attics with low roofs?
            -Do you include garages? If so, what about parking spaces in apartments?
            -Do you include car ports?
            -Do you include farm buildings adjacent to a farm house?

            And so on.

            A tax on the market value of the property is by far the simplest way to do this.

          5. Fact Checker

            Which I quite like in the abstract. Ronan is a clever man who I agree with 95% of the time.

            His proposal is nice but would just be quite difficult to implement.

            Taxes which are prone to exceptions accumulate more of them over time due to lobbying, like barnacles, and eventually sink.

            This is what happened to the Wealth Tax introduced in the mid-1970s.

  2. Eamonn Moran

    “Developer: “No it isn’t – this is where I store my old pallets and cardboard boxes”
    Vacant means no people living in it. Boxes don’t count as people

    1. Rob_G

      The developer could be happily married with his wife and sleep in the same bed every night, but claim that she was actually resident in one of his vacant properties…

      A more equitable (as in, higher) property tax would provide enough financial incentive to ‘use it or lose it’ for vacant properties, without resort to trying to put a definition on ‘vacant’ properties that could be open to abuse/crafty loopholes.

        1. Rob_G

          How much would it cost to hold these tribunals on whether a property is vacant or not?

          Property tax is much simpler instrument.

  3. Barry the Hatchet

    Ugh, journalists should not allow people to wriggle out of things by making vague comments like this. I call utter bullpoo on this claim unless he can provide detailed information as to the checks carried out by the Local Authorities, the figures subsequently arrived at by them, and the reason for the difference between those figures and the census figures.

    1. Owen C

      Its not really that vague. He specified the local authorities in question, and noted the actions they had conducted (knocked on doors). There’s a lot there for journalists to further investigate reasonably easily and find out if it is an accurate reflection of what LA’s think or not.

      1. fmong

        He didn’t give the smaller number of vacant properties

        He didn’t specify why this would be a reason to abandon vacant house taxes

        He dodged the question, AND dodged validating the point he made to dodge the original question

        That’s some quality vagueness right there

        1. martco

          @fmong
          that’s because he’s a disingenuous shiny suited pvc window salesman

          I’m just waiting for the next GE

          This time I’m going to vote in a way that I’ve never done before and which I hope will take the wheels off his smartarse wagon

  4. realPolithicks

    Isn’t the real problem that these guys don’t actually care enough about the issue of homelessness to take the real measures necessary to solve it. They go through the motions and say all the right things but don’t actually get anything done. They have been in government for six years now and the problem has gotten worse each year…it’s time for them to stop the BS and get something done…don’t hold your breath.

  5. Andy

    Eoghan Murphy suggested the real figure is approx 25,000 vacant units in areas where there is demand.

    Now, how many of these are habitable or would comply with the regulations for rental properties? That’s another question.

  6. qua ngo

    FG’s position is that the market will correct itself and sort all this out without them having to do anything. I really don’t get it though. this implies that private entities, either landlords or developers, can somehow turn a profit off the homeless. with average house prices being so high it’s not going to be developers building houses or apartments that can turn a profit. and with rent so high, it’s unlikely to be landlords either. so where is the solution coming from? are we going to see a mass production of the homeless hubs as the long term solution?
    i.e. thrown them in under the pretense of a short term solution, but just let it become long term? that would certainly fit the usual political form of FF/FG/L et al.
    personally i can only see the problem worsening in the coming decades, particularly as automation starts taking more people out of the workplace, what then? Jaysus, what a way to start the weekend, but at least I have a house to go back to this evening, unlike many unfortunate families in some bizarre and cruel limbo.

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