The proposed vacant site levy “will not apply to property in the ownership of the State, state agencies, semi-state bodies or local authorities”. Why ?
The Planning and Development(No 1) Bill, 2014 (Head 5)proposes the introduction of a vacant site levy whereby local authorities, in urban centres of greater than 3,000 population, will have the power to apply levies to property owners who leave their sites vacant and underutilised. Under the proposal an annual levy of 3 per cent of the market value of the site will be applied if the owner does not take steps to develop the site. The proposed exemption of land in public ownership is an example of muddled thinking.
The purpose of the levy is to introduce a disincentive to a landowner for leaving a site vacant for many years. The levy, to be payable on vacant land, would incentivise and accelerate its development, or foster its sale to those who have the interest, and access to resources, to develop it.
The levy would achieve many of the objectives of a site value tax in a promoting the most efficient use of land . It is a very good idea. However, the exemption of land in public ownership is perverse. For example, a private transport company with undeveloped land would be subject to the levy but a public transport company would not. The costs to the public of the failure to develop vacant sites are the same whether or not the site is in public or private ownership.
It is envisaged that the levy will be applied at the discretion of the local authority. It is not intended to be a revenue generating measure. Its primary objective is to act as a mechanism to incentivise the development of vacant and underutilised sites in central urban areas, thereby facilitating the most efficient use of land and sites and enabling them to be brought into beneficial use rather than allowing them to remain dormant and undeveloped.
There is no reason why land in public ownership should be exempt from the levy.