For years, Dublin City Council (along with many others) has been giving new-build car parking spaces a tax break. I have been working over the past years to end that tax break, and I think we’re close to achieving it.

The tax break works via Dublin City’s Development Levy. This is essentially a charge on every square metre of new development: €113.82 for residential development or €118.60 for commercial development.

So if you were building a 100sq m. office, for example, you’d pay €11,860 in development levies to the council.

The city has various exemptions to this, though. These exemptions recognise that we want to use the tax system to further encourage some kinds of development. Some things Dublin City charges no levy (or a reduced levy) on include:

  • social and affordable housing,
  • non-profit childcare facilities,
  • renewable energy installations,
  • the first 40 sq m of new housing development,
  • minor extensions to protected structures,

Bizarrely, however, Dublin City also offers exemptions and reduced rates to car parking: whether for commercial or residential parking.

The Greens put forward a motion to change that in a council meeting at the end of 2022, and it got majority support across the council to remove the exemption. You can see a video of me (badly!) setting this out here.

There was some understandable objection, however, that applying the levy to new residential car parking spaces would increase build costs for new build residential units. These costs are already too high and could be passed on to homebuyers.

This proposal, which I submitted as part of the consultation on the new development levy scheme, aims to answer that objection, tweaking the city’s development levy in order to:

  1. Fully include car parking as a part of the development levy at the full 100% rate, ending the tax break encouraging new parking development.
  2. Generate similar revenue for the city as under the current proposal (revenue neutral)
  3. Reduce or at least maintain existing overall build costs.

The basic idea is that we lower the overall residential development levy rate slightly, while simultaneously applying the levy to car parking without any exemption or reduction.

This effectively lowers the per square metre charge while increasing the area it applies to.

If we set the new levy rate correctly, we can do this in a way that is broadly revenue neutral for the council and does not impose higher building costs overall on residential construction. It would do this while ending the unwanted tax incentive for extra car parking.

If the principle of this is accepted, the key question is calculating an appropriate residential rate.

This could be done by establishing the average number of parking spaces for each unit of housing in the last year, along with the average size of residential units. We can then easily calculate what proportion of overall development is made up of car parking spaces and reduce the residential development levy proportionately.

An example of the revised calculation

To use an example with easy-to-work-with figures: imagine that last year Dublin saw 12,000sq m of development, and there were ten parking spaces as part of that (each space being an average 12 sq m, making a total of 120sq m).

This would make 1% of all development space car parking. In the proposed scheme, that is not subject to the levy, meaning that 11,880 sq m is subject to the levy of €113.82, raising €1,352,181.60 in development levies.

If we include the parking (increasing the levied area), we can raise the same overall amount by lowering the levy rate to €112.68.

In essence, we’re increasing the area to be levied by 1.01%, while lowering the rate being levied by 0.99%. It will raise the same amount of money while no longer incentivising car parking.

A scheme along these lines would thus generate a similar amount of money, disincentivise excess parking provision, and have no overall cost on build costs. In particular, this would likely give a big cost discount to urban apartments, which have limited parking and was flagged by the Society of Charterered Surveyors’s estimate as currently the most expensive form of housing to build.

All of this can be achieved through small changes to the proposed scheme: removing car parking from the exemption/reduction list and simply varying the rate.

Thus I am calling for a small piece of analysis to be done by the city council on the last year of residential planning applications, to see either how many parking spaces or how much space overall was given over to parking, in order to calculate how much we should lower the levy rate by.