Property tax bombshell for local authority tenants – Cowen

Published on: 17 December 2012

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Environment and Local Government Barry Cowen has raised concerns that 130,000 local authority tenants across the country face hefty hikes in rents next year as a result of the new property tax legislation.
The Government has ignored the advice in the Thornhill report and plans to hold city and county councils liable for property taxes on all local authority houses in their area.
Deputy Cowen explained, “We cannot expect councils, which have already faced large funding cuts this year because of the household charge fiasco, to absorb the cost of property taxes on each local authority home in their area.  If the Government presses ahead with this, local authorities will have no choice but to push the cost directly onto tenants by increasing rents.  But the rent on each local authority home is based on ability to pay, so how can these families who are already experiencing serious difficulties be expected to afford sudden and significant rent increases?
“This is why Thornhill recommended that local authority housing be exempt from property taxes.  The fact that the Government ignored this advice, after sitting on the report for 8 months, means that the gravity of this situation has not dawned on many people.  There has been no consultation, no thorough impact assessment and no time for proper debate on this issue.  I have spoken to many local authority members in different parts of the country over the past number of days who had no idea that this was coming down the line.
“Did the Environment Minister Phil Hogan make any effort to consult local authorities about this?  Was there any communication at all with local authority members? Has his Department carried out an assessment of the number of local authority houses in each area and how much the overall bill will be for each council?  Was there any proper examination at all about this, or was the Government just hoping no one would notice as they continue to suppress debate on the issue?
“Many local authorities around the country are finalising their estimates for next year this week. This property tax bombshell has come as a shock to many of members. They have had no direction from the Government. Minister Hogan needs to come out and explain how he expects councils, or tenants, to pay this property tax.”

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