Seanad debates

Friday, 16 July 2021

Finance (Local Property Tax) (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee and Remaining Stages

 

9:30 am

Photo of Alice-Mary HigginsAlice-Mary Higgins (Independent)

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 21, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

"Report

41. The Minister shall, by 1 December 2022, lay a report before both Houses of the Oireachtas in respect of the data obtained under the provisions of this Act with regard to the ownership of residential properties.".

Amendment No. 8 could apply to all the statistical information that the Minister is compiling. The amendment refers to the statistical information that we have discussed on vacant properties but there will be statistical information of other kinds, including the information that would be created by my amendments Nos. 10 and 11, and I seek that it would be shared with both Houses of the Oireachtas and that there would be a report looking at the data on the ownership of residential properties - of course, not looking at personal data in any respect but looking to that statistical data so that we can address and have the discussions we need to have on the information and on the patterns which have emerged.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 specifically set out a request that there would be compiling of statistical information and identification of trends on the patterns of quantities of residential property ownership in respect of both this Act and the principal Act and that policy options or recommendations might be set out regarding the potential introduction of differential rates of local property tax on residential properties where such properties are owned by persons who: "own two or less residential properties"; "more than two but less than twenty"; "more than twenty but less than fifty"; "more than fifty but less than one hundred"; "more than one hundred but less than one thousand" and; "more than one thousand residential properties".

This is the crux. If we simply look at each property and we do not look at the patterns of ownership but then we have those exemptions which people rightly pushed for, that recognise the real and social circumstances of individuals who are the owners of those residential properties, it is appropriate that we look at that when we are considering matters such as exemptions. For example, when we looked to first-time buyers in the past we considered whether exemptions might be needed for them. Similarly, we should be looking to the multiple property owners, to those who own entire blocks of buildings and sometimes almost neighbourhoods of residential properties, the large real estate investment trusts that in many cases own portfolios of residential properties or half an entire housing estate. They are different, as the first-time buyer was different on the other end, and are at the top end of the scale. It is appropriate that when we are looking at vacant properties, rather than saying we are just going to look at the property, that we compile statistical information that looks at the patterns of ownership and what additional contribution could be made by somebody where, although perhaps it is a family home, the property owner owns multiple properties and it is part of an investment suite. It would be reasonable that we might look to an additional treatment and change in the calculation algorithm to have a measure that would reflect situations whereby somebody owns multiple properties. I included a tier of "more than one thousand" because there are those who own more than 1,000 properties.There are those certainly in that space between having 100 and 1,000 properties. I was going to go from 100 to 500 but I thought about how long I could make this list of differentials. What I have tried to capture here is the difference between the person with a home and the person with a second home. The latter is a separate category and we have dealt with it in the past. There are also the small landlords who might own a building or a place with five apartments. They are captured here. The larger investors with between 50 and 100 properties are commercial property investors at that point. Then there are the huge international investment funds that own hundreds or thousands of properties here, Vancouver and elsewhere in the world. It is reasonable we ask them to pay a little bit more towards the property tax. This is why I am asking the Minister to look at the policy options. He can compile information. As he has indicated, I know he likes to gather information first. We can gather this information and the Minister can share it with us in the Oireachtas so we can engage with him on it and consider it. I would like it sooner than the next three-year review but I set the date of October 2022 so it would be there in time for the next three-year review. We can consider the potential introduction of additional tiers or structures in our property tax for multiple homeowners.

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