A PROMINENT Cork developer has called for landlords of derelict sites to be given tax breaks to develop them, as €20.5m worth of property currently lies idle in the city.
City Hall now has more than 100 properties registered on its Derelict Sites Register - a figure which is set to rise in the coming months.
Developer Michael O’Flynn said he understands Cork City Council is doing all it can to bring sites back into use but he said many landlords who own properties on the list - which are currently levied at 3% of market value - cannot afford to develop the sites as they are not commercially viable.
“I have sympathy for both sides," he told The Echo.
"The city council has to deal with derelict sites but landowners can only develop them if they are viable. Viability is the key issue and I have advocated this previously. I would strongly suggest that sites within urban areas that are gone derelict need some form of tax breaks to make them viable.
“Unless we face up to national policy on this, we will continue to have an awful lot of derelict sites in cities, towns and villages. This could be a way of getting a lot more people housed. Any tax breaks should be very residentially orientated because a lot of our streets may be viable for housing with tax breaks but they are not for retail because shopping has moved away for single units. That’s the reality.
“The Government need to deal with this. What can a landlord do if a site isn’t viable? You can’t make somebody develop a property at a loss or if they can't fund it. These are sites that are serviced and they could be put into use if there was help given towards construction," he added.
Cork Business Association CEO Lawrence Owens said there has to be rates incentives for landlords and “more imagination” is needed to encourage sites back into use.
“We now have a clearer picture of the amount of derelict sites in the city and the CBA welcomes that the penalties for non-usage of derelict sites is jumping from 3% of market value to 7% in 2020.
“I think that will be a motivating factor for landlords but I believe in a carrot and stick approach.
“If there was a rates incentive, such as a rate free first year and 50% rate in year two, that would incentivise people. That’s a very simple approach for start-ups in derelict sites. I don’t think there is anything unreasonable in that,” he added.
A map listing every derelict site in the city is available on the City Council website at https://www.corkcity.ie/en/council-services/services/planning/derelict-vacant-sites/derelict-sites.html