Labour Calls For Vacant Properties To Be Used To Solve Housing Crisis

Labour has called on the government to use vacant properties as a solution to the growing housing crisis.

The party's spokesperson on Housing and Planning, Jan O'Sullivan, has said that empty houses cannot be tolerated while so many are without a home.

Deputy O'Sullivan made the call ahead of the publication of the Focus Ireland 2015 Annual Report.

She said: "The 2016 Census tells us that there are more than 198,000 vacant dwellings in Ireland, excluding holiday homes, while the number of people homeless is growing day by day. While building new houses, in both the public and private sectors is, rightly, being accelerated, existing vacant dwellings can, and must, be a quick win and a real solution for those families who have no home or are at risk of losing theirs.

"The census figures represent 9.8% of overall housing stock while 4-5% is the norm in a functioning economy. We need to get to that norm."

Deputy O'Sullivan has put forward eight proposals on how the government could use the vacant units to solve the crisis:

• The Government must carry out the audit that they promised in their own Action Plan without delay to find out exactly where the vacant properties are and who owns them.

• The programme that Ms O'Sullivan introduced as Minister to bring 5,000 vacant council homes into use must be continued by Ministers Coveney and English.  

• In Budget 2017, the Living City Initiative and Living Over the Shop Incentive must be reformed as the potential is there to bring vibrancy back to city/town centres.

• Increase the fund allocated to the Housing Agency, as proposed in Focus Ireland's pre-budget submission, to acquire vacant properties for homeless households. The €40million figure announced in 'Rebuilding Ireland' is welcome but as Focus Ireland point out, a figure of €210 million would allow the promised 1,600 units to be delivered by mid-2018.

• Prohibit landlords from evicting tenants because they are selling the property as outlined in Labour's Social and Affordable Housing Bill. There is considerable evidence that many of these homes remain vacant for years after being put up for sale.

• Require Local Authorities to identify empty premises that could be acquired and refurbished to provide homes.

• Local Authorities should be required to examine their portfolio of derelict sites and use their powers under the Derelict Sites Act and through Compulsory Purchase Orders to acquire properties that have been empty and derelict for a long period of time and refurbish them to BER standards for allocation.

• Bring forward the Vacant Sites Levy by one year as proposed in the Labour Party Housing Bill.

Minister O'Sullivan concluded:"While there is no doubt that only a functioning construction sector will deliver the number of homes needed on an on-going basis, using the houses we have has to be an immediate priority."


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