Tax incentive scheme could conserve and revitalise Ireland’s largest towns

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A tax-incentive scheme, modelled on the Living City initiative could play a major role in revitalising those towns, and deliver thousands of habitable dwellings for homeless families and workers.

Tax incentive scheme could conserve and revitalise Ireland’s largest towns and provide over 10,000 badly needed homes.

Census 2016 reveals over 10,000 vacant non-holiday homes in 17 towns. 

A tax-incentive scheme, modelled on the Living City initiative (currently confined to parts of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Kilkenny cities), and targeted at some of the country’s largest provincial  towns, could play a major role in revitalising those towns, and deliver thousands of habitable dwellings for homeless families and workers.

This proposal arises from detailed analysis of the preliminary findings of Census 2016 by the Heritage Council’s Architecture Officer, Mr. Colm Murray, which finds that there are over 10,000 vacant houses (not being used as holiday homes), in 17 of the larger provincial towns, many of which are within commuting distance of Dublin and our other cities. 
Here is a list of these towns pdf

“This data highlights both the threats and opportunities posed by this stock of vacant dwellings in these towns, which are located in their centres and suburbs. Bringing this housing stock back into habitation would help revitalise and conserve the fabric of these towns, and the conservation costs involved would be much less than to construct new homes on greenfield sites. Furthermore, a failure to revitalise and conserve this housing stock will lead to further loss of commercial activity in them”, Mr. Murray said.

“Re-inhabiting even half of these housing units that were vacant on Census night would also make a positive, and relatively speedy, impact on the Government’s housing objectives to deliver 25,000 units per annum as set out in its ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ plan”. he added.

Mr. Murray also said that when one considers the time it takes to build new homes,  and the extent of the housing crisis in Dublin especially, with so many families living in emergency accommodation, “repairing and re-inhabiting houses in towns like Drogheda, Dundalk and Naas (with nearly 2,000 vacant non-holiday homes) makes obvious sense”.

Such an initiative would also accord with the Heritage Council’s ‘Policy Proposals for Ireland’s Towns’, launched in November 2015, which recommended that the Living City Tax Incentive be extended to more towns,  Mr. Murray said.  “The functions that towns facilitate is part of their heritage value. Seen in this light, the re-occupation of vacant homes is a vital part of the revitalisation of Ireland’s towns, in order to make them desirable places to live and work. It will also contribute to sustainability through reduced car dependency, more efficient provision of physical and social services, and savings in building materials. The most environmentally benign building is the one that does not have to be built, because it already exists”.

The overall preliminary data from Census 2016 reveals that there are 198,358 vacant houses (not being used as holiday homes), across the country in both urban and rural areas, and that almost 50,000 of those are in 166 urban areas. 

The Heritage Council is the statutory body charged with identifying, protecting, preserving and enhancing Ireland’s national heritage. National heritage includes Monuments, Archaeological objects, Heritage objects, Architectural heritage, Flora, Fauna, Wildlife habitats, Landscapes, Seascapes, Wrecks, Geology, Heritage gardens and parks, and Inland waterways. Established under the Heritage Act 1995, and operating under the aegis of the Department of Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the Heritage Council provides advice to the Minister, and partners and networks with Local Authorities and a wide range of other organisations and individuals to promote Ireland’s heritage.

View Full Report pdf

For further information contact Stephen O’Byrnes (087 8148720) or Michelle Tritschler (086 3846630) at MKC Communications.

Colm Murray is available for interview