Every local authority has prepared a Vacant Homes Action Plan for their administrative area. In August 2017, I requested all local authorities to designate vacant home officers to co-ordinate local actions to address vacancy and also to undertake local vacancy surveys in order to identify, through their Vacant Homes Action Plans, priority "vacancy hot-spot areas" and properties that can be quickly brought back into residential use.
Where local authorities identify a potentially long term vacant residential dwelling, and the owner can be identified, the local authority attempts to engage with the owner on the options available to assist in bringing their properties back into use as liveable housing stock.
Since the launch of Rebuilding Ireland, in the region of 553 vacant homes have been re-introduced to the liveable housing stock, primarily through our Repair and Lease, and Buy and Renew initiatives. Local authorities are also working hard to bring homes back 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. These recovered properties aid us in the ongoing effort to meet our commitments under Pillar 5 of Rebuilding Ireland, which sets out a range of measures that try to ensure that Ireland’s existing housing stock is used to the greatest extent possible.
In order to more accurately determine the levels of long-term, vacant but recoverable dwellings that can be re-introduced into the liveable housing stock, the Department, in conjunction with the Housing Agency, the CSO and the local government sector, developed a survey methodology in relation to locating vacant housing and a pilot field-based survey was undertaken across six local authorities.
Each participating local authority visually inspected approximately 1,200 homes, recording the location of potentially vacant properties and, where possible, recording apparent reasons for vacancy and categorising each vacant home (with a view to prioritising those which are most likely to be re-introduced into the liveable housing stock). To identify long-term vacancy, the pilot requires two visual inspections, six months apart, with those houses occupied between the two inspections disregarded.
The participating local authorities have completed their work on the pilot vacancy identification survey and my Department is analysing the results of the survey and considering the outcomes to determine whether there would be significant value in rolling out the survey on a national basis.
I believe that the co-ordinated work of the Vacant Homes Unit in my Department and the local authority Vacant Homes Offices has been and continues to be instrumental in acting as a vital source of information and advice to those who may own homes that are suitable for reactivation. This ongoing liaison between the Department and local authorities, who have crucial local knowledge, allows for more rapid action to tackle vacancy and also provides a clear repository at the coalface for owners of vacant homes who want to bring them back into use.