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, which 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 available to owners to bring vacant housing stock back into use including:
- The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) assists private property owners, local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) 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. I have recently announced an increase in the funding limit for the refurbishment of properties from €40,000 to €60,000. Since its introduction the scheme has facilitated 185 homes being brought back into use and tenanted; and
- The Buy and Renew initiative particularly focuses on older vacant homes to help tackle the problem of dereliction and improve the appearance of the community with the added value of delivery social housing units. It provides the option for suitable properties to be purchased rather than leased. Since its introduction it has facilitated local authorities to deliver circa 600 vacant properties for social housing purposes.
In addition, 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 on the Department's website at: https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/home-ownership/vacant-homes/vacant-homes
To support this work at local authority level, the 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 the 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.