Vacant site levy may raise extra €16m for State

But councils and public agencies also liable

The increase in the vacant sites levy could result in at least an additional €16m for the State if property owners fail to develop the sites after the first year.

However, with the State itself owning significant properties on the register, at least €4m of this figure will be owed to the State by its own agencies.

In Tuesday's Budget, the levy was more than doubled from the current 3pc that applies in the first year to 7pc for all subsequent years.

Any owner of a vacant site included on the register who does not develop their land next year will pay an initial 3pc levy in January 2019.

The Budget increase announced this week will see that rise to 7pc from January 2019 onwards.

To date, only five local authorities in the country have included properties on the vacant sites register, which must be compiled by each of them since the beginning of this year.

Dublin City Council has the largest number of properties on its register; 65 are listed, with a total valuation of almost €230m.

However, of this, 11 sites with a valuation of over €58m are owned by State agencies, including Dublin City Council, Nama, the OPW and the HSE.

Nama has a vacant site in Sheriff Street Upper, valued at €12.5m. Dublin City Council owns vacant sites in O'Devaney Gardens, including St Bricin's Military Hospital, the corner of Marshal Lane and Bridgefoot Street, the corner of Russell Street and North Circular Road, Dominick Street, the Readymix site in East Wall, and the corner of Ashtown Grove and Ashtown Park.

The OPW has vacant sites at Military Road and St John's Road West, and the HSE has vacant sites at the former Donnelly Centre in Cork Street, Dublin 8.

Waterford City and County Council has the second largest number at 21, but it does not provide a property valuation for any of the sites listed on the register.

It is followed by South Dublin Council, with eight properties totalling a valuation of €7,075,000 on its register, and Donegal County Council, with four properties with a combined value of €475,315.

Wexford County Council has three properties on its register, with a combined value of €400,000. The remainder of the local authorities have either listed zero properties on their registers or failed to provide the register publicly.

A number of these stated that their registers remained empty as councils were in the process of documenting that the sites identified have been vacant for the past 12 months.

Legislation requires that a site has been vacant for the past 12 months in order for it to be placed on the Vacant Sites Register.

Other councils said that they were reviewing their county development plans to incorporate provisions to enable identification and inclusion of specific sites.

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing said it could not put a figure on what it expected to yield in tax from the levy increase.

"The department does not keep a database of vacant sites nationally. Each local authority is obliged to hold its own register.

"We wouldn't know until the register is compiled [what tax it would yield]. And there is also an appeals process, which is open to any property owner included on a register," said the spokesperson.

He added that he expected the registers to be fully compiled by early in the new year as the levies announced in the Budget will come into effect from January, 1, 2019.