New strategy announced to put vacant homes back in use

Several actions are already being taken by the Department of Housing

New strategy announced to put vacant homes back in use

File photo

Updated: 09.45

The Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has announced a number of key actions to quickly deliver vacant homes back into use.

This is being done ahead of a Vacant Homes Strategy to be announced in September.

Minister Murphy says several of these actions are already being taken by his department and local authorities.

Among the key initiatives are the establishment of a dedicated Empty Homes Unit, for all local authority chiefs to designate vacant homes officers in each of their authorities, and a new website.

The website will provide information for property owners as to what steps to take to bring their house back into use.

Other elements of the plan include:

  • Ensuring that all local authorities maximise the quick turnaround of their vacant social housing stock between lettings.
  • Prioritising the development and adoption of exempted development planning regulations that can allow the change of use of vacant commercial and over-the-shop premises to residential use without having to seek planning permission
  • Early consideration with the relevant Government departments on whether a broad set of linked initiatives could be developed to address the range of urban vacancy issues
  • Exploring how an initiative on rural resettlement as a measure to facilitate wider re-use of existing housing stock can progress

Minister Murphy says: "Increasing supply isn’t just about building new homes, it’s about managing the stock that we already have that's not being used.

"There is more to come under the strategy but this is the right start.

"We need action taken at local level, with national coordination from my department.

Almost 80,000 vacant homes were identified in cities and towns back in April 2016 when the Census took place.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy | File photo

Minister Murphy told Newstalk Breakfast a derelict property during a housing crisis is unacceptable.

"We have to respect property rights but we've also got to recognise the public interest that is here.

"We have a crisis when it comes to homeless and housing.

"Where property is vacant - we're not talking about CPOing a property where someone lives in it - where it is vacant, where it is falling into dereliction at a time of crisis we believe that's not acceptable.

"We will come with measures, incentives to help you bring that home back into use".

"Another thing I'll be doing is in October I'll be bringing forward legislation, so people can easily change from commercial use to residential use.

"Again that means where there is empty floors above shops it will be far easier to get them back into use as homes - as used to be the case".

Asked about previous objections to people living above shops, Mr Murphy said: "I think we can make it work if we get the right schemes in place".