Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Questions (134)

Duncan Smith


134. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of local authorities that have developed and activated vacant homes action plans; the statistical information his Department has on the number of vacant homes in each local authority area; the action that has been advised to local authorities in relation to homes left vacant for long periods of time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33821/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy, which was published by my Department in 2018, provides a targeted, effective and coordinated approach to identifying and tackling vacancy across Ireland. The range of objectives, and actions it specifies, have been pursued in partnership with stakeholders and agencies across the housing sector to address vacancy in our housing stock. In that context, each of the 31 local authorities have prepared and activated a Vacant Homes Action Plan for their administrative area. The Vacant Home Action Plan identifies the scale of vacant homes in their jurisdiction and sets ambitious but realistic targets of the number of vacant homes that can ultimately be brought back into use.  

My Department does not hold the data on the number of empty or unoccupied domestic dwellings in the State.

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 regard, my Department and local authorities are being proactive in dealing with vacant properties and there are a number of schemes available to incentivise reactivating suitable dwellings into the liveable housing stock such as: 

- The Repair and Leasing 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 properties. The scheme provides upfront funding to carry out the works and, in return, the property owner agrees to lease the dwelling to the local authority to be used as social housing for a period up to 25 years. The maximum loan for property repair available under the Repair and Lease scheme has been increased by my Department from €40,000 to €60,000. 247 properties have been brought back into use under the Repair and lease scheme.  

- The Buy and Renew initiative allows local authorities to purchase private vacant properties for use as social housing. 670 properties have been brought back into use under the scheme.

- The Housing Acquisitions Fund is 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.

My Department continues to keep the Vacant Homes Schemes and the various functions of the Vacant Homes Offices under review with ongoing feedback from our Vacant Homes Officers.