Taking the initiative from inception to launch
Having lobbied for a new urban regeneration scheme for Waterford to be extended beyond Georgian buildings to all pre-1915 properties, John Deasy says the revised Living City Initiative launched recently means hundreds of additional residences will qualify for the incentives.
“To definitively determine whether their property is included in the scheme people should contact Waterford City and County Council’s Economic Development team,” he said. “The map is strictly defined and there are stringent criteria and various restrictions/options that should be studied.”
Aimed at revitalising run-down town centres, the scheme will see two types of tax allowances applied to works carried out to century-old houses and certain commercial properties within a specific zone, whose scope is wider than originally intended.
Drawn up by the Department of Finance in consultation with the local Council and Revenue, the Waterford ‘special regeneration area’ — which will be operative over a five-year qualifying period — effectively comprises the entire old inner city.
As well as focusing on some of Waterford’s most historic streets and thoroughfares, the designated area also takes in some sites on the far side of Rice Bridge, including the derelict north wharves.
On the opposite bank its boundary begins beyond the brewery block and follows the line of the River Suir right along the South Quays before winding around Waterpark College as far as Glenville.
There it shifts across to the Dunmore Road, back in along Passage Road, and over to Ballytruckle and Poleberry; continues on in to Manor Street, Barrack Street, Cannon Street, Slievekeale Road, Morrissons Road, Upper Yellow Road, Military Road and Gracedieu Road; before rejoining the river at Grattan Quay to complete the main loop.
Having pushed to get the scheme widened to maximise its uptake here — “The initial 2013 version was confined to Georgian era buildings, which Waterford has very few of, so a much broader interpretation of ‘old’ was needed” — John Deasy says it gives those with the resources to renovate an opportunity to write off the cost against their income.
The first type of relief available allows owner-occupiers of properties originally built as dwellings before 1915 to carry out refurbishment or conversion works and deduct the outlay from their income tax over 10 years.
The second element will enable investors to claim capital allowances — spread over seven years — for the refurbishment or conversion of premises used for retail or providing local services.
There’s no ceiling on the total commercial spend, just the relief, which is capped at €200,000 per project — a requirement to get past EU State aid rules, which delayed the scheme’s roll-out. In all cases works must cost at least 10% of the property’s existing market value.
Some 80% of architects and auctioneers surveyed in Waterford suggested a significant direct employment impact from the scheme, which is also being introduced in other main urban centres, including Kilkenny and Cork.
“Refurbishment of old buildings is very labour intensive and high-standard work, and over half the capital spend would be expected to go on tradespeople and related services,” John said.