Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
I thank the Deputy for the question, which he has raised with me directly in the past, as have other Members. It is important we ensure that the existing housing stock is utilised to the full extent, including by providing a targeted, effective and co-ordinated approach to identifying and tackling vacancy throughout Ireland. That is why there are very strong actions in the Housing for All plan that the Government has adopted in that area, some of which I will now outline.
We are pursuing a wide range of measures to make more efficient use of our stock, including a new local authority-led programme to help local authorities buy or compulsory purchase order, CPO, 2,500 vacant homes in their areas that can then be sold on the open market to ensure homes do not lie vacant. This is on top of local authorities CPOing homes for their public housing stock. I want some of those vacant homes to be used for first-time buyers who want to get on the ladder in towns and villages throughout the country. We have reformed the fair deal scheme to remove disincentives to selling or renting unused homes, which affects 9,000 properties. We made the legislative change in July in respect of sales, while in this quarter, with the help of the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, we are moving to deal with the issue with regard to rental.
The Croí Cónaithe fund, to be delivered by local authorities for the provision of serviced sites for housing to attract people to build their own homes and to support the refurbishment of vacant properties, will enable people to live within towns and villages in all counties, including Cork and the Deputy's constituency, in a sustainable way. There is also the Historic Towns initiative, which is a capital grant scheme operated in conjunction with the Heritage Council. This initiative will be adjusted in order that there will be a particular focus to encourage private owners and-or occupiers to bring vacant floor area in historic buildings back into use. Planning exemptions, an issue I might return to, will be made available for above-shop conversions. A number of measures in Housing for All will make a big difference in respect of vacancy.