Written answers

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government

Vacant Properties

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
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51. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the steps he is taking to encourage the use of vacant housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51107/19]

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)
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95. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the number of vacant privately owned homes that have been brought back into use through programmes, including the repair and lease and the acquisition of vacant properties, through the Housing Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51803/19]

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 95 together.

Rebuilding Ireland sets out a range of measures to assist in meeting Ireland’s housing needs by ensuring that our existing housing stock is used to the greatest extent possible. A central action within it is a commitment to develop a National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy. This Strategy, which I published July 2018, strives to provide a targeted, effective and co-ordinated approach to identifying and tackling vacancy across the country and draws together all of the strands of ongoing work into one document, with a clear vision for moving forward in the next few years. In addition, each local authority has established a Vacant Homes Office and prepared a Vacant Homes Action Plan, supported by dedicated funding provided by my Department.

This approach has allowed the development of innovative approaches, such as the website vacanthomes.ie developed by Mayo County Council in July 2017 on behalf of the local government sector. This site acts as a central portal for individuals to log possible vacant homes and is proving useful in supplementing the country-wide analysis on vacancy and in mobilising communities to assist local authorities in developing and implementing a targeted approach. Some 3,422 properties have been registered to date.

The website provides useful information for property owners on how to bring their vacant properties back into use and on available financial supports. This includes a number of schemes developed by my Department to incentivise reactivating suitable dwellings into the liveable housing stock. In that regard, by the end of Q3 2019:

- The Repair and Leasing initiative resulted in 1,510 applications;129 homes have been brought back into use and tenanted, with 155 agreements for lease signed.

- The Buy & Renew Scheme has facilitated local authority purchase 470 vacant properties for social housing purpose; - Through the revolving acquisitions fund of €70 million managed by the Housing Agency since January 2017, a total of 669 properties have been made available to Approved Housing Bodies and a further 116 properties are in the process of being secured; and

- The Housing Agency has also supported local authorities to acquire a further 374 vacant properties from financial institution for social housing purposes with a further 112 proceeding through to sale.

This effectively means that in addition to the 600 properties brought back into use to date under the Buy & Renew and Repair & Leasing Schemes, more than 1,200 other vacant properties held by financial institutions have been secured for social housing use since 2016.Local authorities are also bringing homes into use by acquiring dwellings in unfinished estates, liaising with financial institutions on their vacant property portfolios and utilising CPO powers to acquire empty properties. In overall terms, CSO data indicates that reconnections of properties vacant for at least 2 years and completions of homes in unfinished estates account for some 13,800 of the 70,800 new homes that have become available for use in the period 2016 to Q3 2019.

Tackling vacancy will continue to be the focus of targeted attention by my Department and local authorities over the remaining years of Rebuilding Ireland.


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