An independent TD has said that vacant homes in towns and villages should be refurbished and utilised in an effort to tackle the housing shortage in the country.

Galway East Dáil representative, Seán Canney said the housing supply crisis is a “difficult issue”, but the government is “missing out on an opportunity by refusing to recognise the potential” to bring vacant houses back into use.

“Every town and village has properties which are boarded up for many years; they are a blight on the streetscapes. The 2016 census reported that 245,460 dwellings were vacant in the country,” the deputy said.

Vacant homes

According to the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI), 75% of all floor space above ground floor retail space in Dublin city is empty.

Deputy Canney said this raises the question as to why this is happening in a time of such shortage of housing.

The Galway-based TD said the main obstacles include:

  • Cost of refurbishment;
  • Restrictions posed by planning constraints;
  • Reluctance of the owners of the vacant site to sell the properties;
  • Lack of services in towns and villages.

Deputy Canney said that he believes there are solutions which will help in the short-term.

These measures include:
  • Exempting vacant houses from planning;
  • Expansion of the Help to Buy scheme to first-time buyers of second-hand properties;
  • Expansion of the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme to include refurbishment costs for second-hand property;
  • Double the value of supports in the deep retrofit scheme for first-time buyers of vacant properties;
  • Introduce additional tax credit for first-time purchasers of second-hand homes and exempt these properties from the local property tax (LPT) for the first five years of occupancy;
  • Immediate introduction of town and village group wastewater schemes under local authorities, modelled on the group water schemes and financed 100% by Department of Housing;
  • Incentivise owners of these properties to make vacant properties available by introducing a tax reduction scheme on the sale of the property to first-time buyers;
  • Double the vacant sites levy and empower the local authority to use compulsory purchase order (CPO) on the site if vacant for more than seven years.

“In my view, we will rejuvenate the towns and villages and make the centre of towns and villages living spaces,” deputy Canney said.

“We will clean up the dereliction which is a blight on our streetscapes and help meet the demand for housing in an affordable and sustainable way.

“We can sit back and allow the foreign investment funds buy up our new housing stock or we can fight back to ensure first-time buyers have every opportunity to own their home and have security for their families,” he concluded.