Government accused of ignoring proposals to tackle 90,000 vacant homes
The Housing Ministry has been criticized for not considering proposals to tackle the 90,000 vacant homes across the country.
Four groups – the Housing Agency, Collaborative Town Center Health Check (CTCHC), VacantHomes.ie and SpaceEngagers – met with Department of Housing officials in 2018 to discuss ways to tackle high vacancy rates.
Among the measures proposed by the groups was monitoring electricity and water usage to locate vacant properties, then imposing penalties on landlords who left them idle.
Other parts of Europe are now taking this approach, but the proposal has been ignored in Ireland.
The government of Wallonia, a French-speaking region of Belgium, is the latest to announce that it will use water and electricity consumption, or the lack thereof, to detect vacant properties.
The owners of such real estate in Wallonia will be fined if they do not put it back into use.
The CTCHC and other Irish groups have highlighted their frustration that other governments are implementing such proposals while government departments here in Ireland seem reluctant to accept proposals.
Alison Harvey, the founder of the CTCHC project, said:
It comes at a time when property prices are rising and calls on the government and local authorities to urgently tackle both dereliction and vacancy.
The four groups said that if these proposals had been taken into account, it might have helped to cope with the current high vacancy rates in Ireland.
In a submission to the government, they highlighted the importance of collecting data on the number of vacant properties across Ireland, to ensure vacant properties can be used to help tackle a growing housing crisis.
A spokesman for the Department of Housing said ‘responding to vacancy, making the best use of our existing stock, is crucial given the current housing crisis’.
“The government is pursuing a wide range of measures to ensure the use of existing stock and to unlock the potential for reactivating vacant and derelict properties, which will breathe new life into towns and villages, boosting schools, the local economy and local communities,” the spokesperson added.
These measures include reforming the Fair Deal program to remove barriers to the sale and rental of vacant properties.
Local authorities will be funded to complete expropriation orders for up to 2,500 vacant homes by 2026.