Department of Environment, Communities and Local Government, Ireland, have published a new Urban Regeneration and Housing Bill 2015 that includes operational details for a new ’vacant sites levy’. For the wording of the Bill please see the web link
The aim of the levy is ‘to incentivize urban regeneration and the provision of housing in central urban areas.’
The Bill is a product of both the Social Housing Strategy 2020 and the Construction 2020 Strategy.
The timeline involves each planning authority setting up a ‘Register of Vacant Sites’ on the 1st January 2017. The clock starts to tick for the first payments on 1st January 2018. The larger part of the site must have been ‘vacant or idle’ for 12 months prior to the first issuance of a notice for payment of a levy. Therefore the levy will be due for payment, in arrears, on 1st January 2019.
The default amount will be 3% of the market value on sites larger than 0.1ha, or 1000sq.m, that are in areas suitable for residential development or regeneration development. However this percentage changes if there is a loan out on the site that is larger than the current market value (when the levy is reduced to 0%), between 75% and 100% (where the levy is 0.75%) or between 50% and 75% (when the levy is 1.5%).
A ‘vacant site’ is defined in 2 categories that are recognized in development plans or local area plans: residential land and regeneration land.
On residential land a site is vacant if it is in an area where there is a need for housing, where it is suitable for provision of housing, and where most if not all of the site is ‘vacant or idle’.
On regeneration land a site is vacant if most if not all of the site is vacant or idle, that this condition has a negative effect on existing amenities or reduces the amenity provided by public infrastructure and facilities, and has ‘adverse effects’ on the character of the area. This latter part of the definition is similar to the existing definition for derelict sites in the Derelict Sites Act 1990 where a derelict site is one ’which detracts, or is likely to detract, to a material degree from the amenity, character or appearance of land in the neighbourhood of the land in question.’
The Bill sets out how to determine if a need for housing in an area exists, if a site is suitable for housing, the value of a site, and if there is an adverse effect on existing amenities, infrastructure or facilities. There are various appeal processes.
Proceeds from the vacant sites levy are invested into the sites for the public good, for example into protected structures, services and facilities, civic improvements such as works to upgrade streets and pavements, and removal of graffiti.
This new Bill places more emphasis on the need to address the housing crisis as a motivation for introducing a levy. This draws very direct parallels to the mapping of derelict sites in 1914 that accompanied an Inquiry into the Housing Conditions of the Working Classes in the City of Dublin, Cd.7317.
The vacant site levy now appears to cover both public and private lands, and therefore is much more equitable and in line with recommendations from Dublin City Council’s Brownfield Regeneration Steering Committee.
One issue that is notably not mentioned is that of exemptions (other than the site being in negative equity). Original proposals discussed the idea of exemptions applying to sites that were given an interim use with social and/or ecological benefit such as parks or playgrounds.
While this Bill is very relevant to Reusing Dublin www.reusingdublin.ie it will only apply to larger sites that meet certain conditions. Reusing Dublin is an attempt to map underuse of our city at a much finer scale – sites and buildings of all sizes, floors and areas within buildings that are not efficiently or fully used, roofs, walls and grassed areas that could accommodate additional uses.