Finally, Ireland’s vacant property myth has been debunked.
The notion that the State was sitting on tens of thousands of empty homes (they were thought to number 200,000 at one stage) while simultaneously mired in an unprecedented housing crisis whipped opposition politicians and others into a frenzy a few years back.
The controversy stemmed, however, from a very loose definition of the word, vacancy, and a misinterpretation of the data.
It’s now thankfully been put to bed by the Department of Finance, which last week released the initial batch of returns from the Government’s new Vacant Homes Tax (VHT).
They showed that just 3,000 properties – out of national stock 2.3 million – are liable for the tax. This is expected to net the exchequer a grand total of €3 million a year.
The department noted that as of November 20th, over 50,000 properties had been reported through Revenue’s VHT portal, with approximately 5,000 properties declared as vacant and 45,000 as occupied.
Out of this total, approximately 2,000 of these properties have claimed an exemption from the tax, leaving approximately 3,000 properties with a liability, it said.
Either way, the idea that a massive inventory of unused property was there to be repurposed was never the case. And it remains to be seen whether the bandwidth and resources expended in chasing down and taxing the owners of these properties was worthwhile.
Revenue presumably had to work through the thousands of homeowners who appealed their liability, suggesting there is an administrative burden attached to the measure.
Ironically it is estimated that there were 3,500 council homes classified as vacant in the first six months of 2023, at a time when over 57,000 households are on social housing waiting lists.
The idea that we had this low-hanging vacancy fruit gained traction after Central Statisics Office’s 2016 population census, which appeared to suggest