Written answers

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government

Vacant Properties

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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237. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the steps he plans to take to reduce the large number of vacant houses that could be put to use to house persons in need of housing; when the effects of these steps will be seen on the ground; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36191/21]

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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My Department is focused on ensuring that existing housing stock is utilised to its fullest extent including a targeted, effective and co-ordinated approach to identifying and tackling vacancy across Ireland.

In that context, Pillar 5 of Rebuilding Ireland, set out a range of measures to assist in meeting housing needs by ensuring that our existing housing stock is used to the greatest extent possible. Key to this was the publication of the National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy, published in 2018, contains a range of objectives and key actions to be pursued in partnership with stakeholders and agencies across the housing sector to address vacancy in our housing stock. The Strategy is underpinned by a number of supports and guidance available to bring vacant housing stock back into use including:

- The Repair and Leasing Schemewhich was to assist private property owners, local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies in utilising existing vacant housing stock throughout the country. The scheme is targeted at owners of vacant properties who cannot afford or access the funding needed to bring their properties up to the required standard for rental property. 247 properties have been brought back into use under the Repair and Lease scheme.

- The Buy and Renew Schemeparticularly focuses on older vacant homes to help tackle the problem of dereliction and improve the appearance of the community. It provides the option for suitable properties to be purchased rather than leased, if that is the preference of the owners. 670 properties have been brought back into use under the scheme.

- The Housing Acquisitions Fundis a €70 million revolving that was established in January 2017 with the objective of enabling the Housing Agency to acquire vacant units from banks and investment companies for social housing use. The fund is replenished by the Housing Agency through the sale of units primarily to the AHB sector and the funds received are then recycled back into the fund for future acquisitions. To date 844 properties have been brought back into use through the fund.

- In December 2018 my Department published the Bringing Back Homes Manual for the Reuse of Existing Buildings.Revitalising our main streets through well designed refurbishment of residential units, particularly above shops, could help to rejuvenate smaller town centres and city streets as well as produce more houses. The Bringing Back Homes manual is available to download at: www.housing.gov.ie/housing/home-ownership/vacant-homes/bringing-back-homes-manual-reuse-existing-buildings.

To support this work at local authority level, my Department has secured funding for each local authority to support the work of a Vacant Homes Office. The provision of central funding reinforces the capacity of my Department’s Vacant Homes Unit to liaise with and seek information/statistics from a dedicated contact point within each local authority. The Vacant Homes Office plays a key role in the co-ordination of this work within each local authority.

The Government set out its housing priorities in the Programme for Government across numerous areas, including homelessness, affordable home ownership, private and social housing delivery, rent reform and planning and my Department is focused on moving those priorities forward.

To deliver on these commitments, Minister O'Brien will publish a new housing policy and action plan 'Housing for All' this month which will provide a whole of Government approach to housing policy and is at an advanced stage of development at present. This plan will factor in existing demand, together with future projected demand, and put the steps in place needed to deliver just over 33,000 new homes per annum during the period 2020 to 2031.


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