HUNDREDS of homeowners across Limerick are facing the prospect of having to pay the controversial Local Property Tax (LPT) despite living in “ghost estates”.
The Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan has confirmed that just seven housing developments in County Limerick are exempt from the tax while another five are partially exempt (see Factfile panel, below).
This is despite the fact that just over a year ago, more than 40 housing developments across Limerick were declared as being exempt from the €100 Household Charge.
In addition, none of the unfinished housing developments on the outskirts of Limerick city, but which are located in County Clare, are exempt from the LPT.
According to the department, it was decided following last year’s National Housing Development survey that more than 1,200 housing developments across the country could be removed from the list of exempt developments.
This, it says, is because the developments were either “substantially complete” or because works had not commenced at all.
“It is right and proper that households in unfinished developments should be exempt from payment of the Local Property Tax.
The number of properties eligible for a waiver reflects the progress made in tackling unfinished housing developments,” said Minister Hogan.
However, the decision of the Government has been strongly criticised and was raised by local politicians this week at meetings of both Limerick County Council and Limerick City Council.
Residents living in unfinished housing estates, which were exempt from the Household Charge, have also slammed the decision as unfair.
David Crowe, 44, chairman of the Residents Association at Tread na Ri in Kilfinane says he was disgusted when he learned that he would have to pay the LPT.
Fenced off sites which had been earmarked for more than a dozen additional houses are located next to his home and despite recent improvement works, there are still outstanding issues with the road surface, public lighting and the green area in the estate.
David, who bought his home at the height of the boom, says the value of the property has almost halved since 2008 because of the condition of the estate.
“You can dress it up you can do the road surface and the other things but we are still looking at a building site. We can’t clear the rubble from the site next door.
“We can’t do anything with the foundations across the way because it’s private property,” he said adding there is also a problem with illegal dumping.
Ironically, David received his letter from the Revenue Commissioners this week informing him that his home is estimated to be within band 2 of the house valuation scale.
Elsewhere, Ryan Fitzgerald, 32, who lives at Ros Mor, Old Cork Road says it’s not fair that he and his neighbours are being asked to pay the LPT
Directly across the road from Mr Fitzgerald’s home is a derelict site where more homes were due to be constructed.
“Even though we didn’t have to pay the household charge, I had a feeling this was coming though,” he said adding that some improvement works have been carried out in recent weeks.
“The public light on the green outside my house has not worked for over three-and-a-half years but that was fixed.
“All new road markings have gone down. The paint is still fresh and the markings for laying the ‘stop’ sign out are still there.
“A new concrete wall has just gone up at the back of the site across the way – all this happened in recent days,” he told the Irish Independent.
Cllr Patrick C Fitzgerald says he is angry that residents at Cois Sruthain in Croom will have to pay the LPT despite having been exempt from the Household Charge.
Similar to other unfinished estates around the county, there are issues surrounding public lighting and landscaping.
However, in the case of Cois Sruthain there are also concerns about the water supply and sewage scheme.
“The development has not been taken in charge by the council and there have been difficulties arising on site and it is unfair that people living there have to pay the property tax” said Cllr Fitzgerald.
Fianna Fail TD, Niall Collins who has been inundated with calls from angry residents living in unfinished housing estates says the Government needs to explain the rationale behind its decision.
“The Government has tried to justify this by claiming that many of these unfinished estates have miraculously been completed over the past year. This will come as a surprise to the people living in these estates – ordinary families who were abandoned by developers and are stuck without the amenities and services they are entitled to,” he said.