Number of vacant homes in Ireland "unacceptable"

The Simon Communities say there are 27 empty homes for every person trapped in emergency accommodation in Ireland.

The Simon Community has launched a new ten-point plan to tackle homelessness by bringing some of the thousands of empty properties in Ireland back onto the market.

The homeless and housing charity said there are 27 empty homes for every person trapped in emergency accommodation in Ireland.

The charity said it is “unacceptable” that 198,358 homes lie empty in Ireland - 27 times the number of people stuck in emergency accommodation according to the latest government figures.

There were 7,167 homeless people in Ireland in January - including 2,407 children.

The charity said that almost 13% of Ireland’s total housing is vacant - twice the level expected in a functioning housing market.

Low hanging fruit

Simon has today released a new research paper, ‘Empty Homes: Unlocking Solutions to the Housing and Homeless Crisis’ and called on the government to focus on the “low hanging fruit” of vacant housing.

The charity said vacant homes provide “obvious opportunities to provide permanent homes for those that need them urgently.”

“Clearly having more effective housing stock management across the country is a matter which must be addressed urgently,” said Niamh Randall, the charity’s national spokesperson.

“Access to decent, affordable homes is vital if we are to prevent any more people from becoming homeless and ensure that people have every opportunity to leave homelessness behind.”

Ten-point plan

The Simon Community report includes a ten-point plan to address the vacant housing issue effectively – including incentives and taxation.

The plan includes the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) and the introduction of Compulsory Leasing Orders (CLO).

The charity said the introduction of CLOs would enable local authorities to force a lease on a vacant property and undertake refurbishment costs to make the property ready for letting.

The plan would see the property used as social housing with the rent used to offset the cost of refurbishment.

Ms Randall said the charity welcomes the government’s acknowledgement of the potential of vacant properyties to address the homelessness crisis but warned that the plans are “not ambitious enough.”

Unambitious targets

She said the government targets are “not high enough as the numbers of people being pushed into homelessness and housing insecurity continues to rise” and called for a “forensic examination” of Ireland’s local authority housing stock.

Included in the Simon Communities ten-point plan is a push for better data collection and monitoring in order to ensure housing agencies have access to a database of the most up to date information regarding the vacant housing stock.

Ms Randall said that the proper use of vacant housing will not solve the housing crisis on its own – nor prevent future crises.

She said future government’s have a responsibility to ensure the homelessness crisis is not repeated again by ensuring the “building and delivery of sustainable social and affordable housing output.”