Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Ceisteanna (579)

John Deasy


579. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if, in the context of the Action Plan for Housing, his Department has reviewed a study (details supplied) which showed there were nearly 1,800 vacant houses and almost 1,500 vacant flats in Waterford city at the time. [20972/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The report referred to was published in October 2013 and my understanding is that the data therein was sourced from the Census of Population 2011.

I note that the results of Census 2016 (which took place on 24 April 2016) show that vacancy levels in urban areas had decreased compared with the previous Census, while in rural areas vacancy generally remains high. The data provided by the Census is a valuable starting point for the work of my Department but as it includes short-term vacancy (e.g. property for sale or between tenancies on the night of the Census) and complex vacancy issues (e.g. probate), it is important to build on that data to derive the more targeted data that local authorities need in order to tackle vacancy effectively.

Waterford City and County Council are particularly proactive regarding vacancy and their housing staff carried out a survey on housing units in 17 small areas in August 2017 to verify the level of vacancy in urban, rural and semi urban areas. In total, 2,039 properties were surveyed and this indicated that 241 properties were vacant. Waterford City and County Council is continuing to engage with owners of those properties to advise on the funding initiatives and schemes available to facilitate the re-introduction of those properties into the liveable housing stock.

My Department is working with the CSO, the Housing Agency and the local government sector to identify the subset of the headline vacancy figures provided by the Census that represent housing units capable of being brought back into use quickly, particularly in areas of high housing need. The key focus is to enable local authorities to quickly identify any vacancy hotspots in their areas so that existing empty housing stock can be re-used and provide much needed homes.

To this end, my Department will shortly be conducting a pilot field survey in specific local authorities, including Waterford City and County Council, based on a uniform methodology developed with the CSO, Housing Agency and the local government sector. This pilot survey will aim to identify vacant homes that are recoverable into the useable housing stock. On completion of the pilot field-based survey and examination of its outputs, consideration will be given to rolling out the survey further across other areas.