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Vacant Homes Unit
The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government is committed to ensuring there is maximum usage of the existing housing stock. In this context, Minister Eoghan Murphy, in August 2017, announced a number of key actions to quickly bring vacant homes back into use.
As part of that announcement, the Minister established a Vacant Homes Unit (VHU) in the Department, with the aim of driving and co-ordinating actions at central and local government levels and supporting local authorities in their actions. The VHU has worked and continues to work with the Central Statistics Office, the local government sector and the Housing Agency to improve the range and usefulness of the data available around vacant homes. The key focus is to enable local authorities to quickly identify vacancy hotspots, particularly in areas where there is a high demand for homes, and which have vacant or under-utilised houses that are capable of being brought back into use.
Role of Vacant Home Officers
Vacant Homes Officers are available in local authorities to provide information, advice and support for owners of vacant homes and also to deal with queries from members of the public in respect of private residential vacant properties in their administrative area. A list of Vacant Homes Officers and their contact details is available here - Vacant Homes Officer contacts.
Vacant Homes Action Plans
Local authorities have also produced Vacant Homes Action Plans for their administrative areas, setting out goals and targets to show how they intend to deal with levels of vacancy. In addition, each local authority is identifying a designated Vacant Homes Officer (VHO) to be assigned as a central point of contact within their organisation and to liaise with central government and other stakeholders as appropriate.
National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy 2018-2021
Pillar 5 of Rebuilding Ireland, the Government’s Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, sets out a range of measures to assist in meeting Ireland’s housing needs by ensuring that Ireland’s existing housing stock is used to the greatest extent possible. An overarching action within that Pillar is a commitment to develop a National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy. This Strategy strives to provide a targeted, effective and co-ordinated approach to identifying and tackling vacancy across Ireland. The Strategy contains a range of objectives and key actions which will be pursued in partnership with stakeholders and agencies across the housing sector to address vacancy in our housing stock. The Strategy and the accompanying Executive Summary are set out below.
Bringing Back Homes Manual for the reuse of existing buildings
Action 5.21 of the 2017 review of Rebuilding Ireland committed to supporting and facilitating the reuse of older vacant buildings for residential use. In this context, a working group consisting of Department and local authority representatives with expertise in building regulations, fire safety in buildings, planning, design and heritage, was formed to explore the regulatory procedures that apply for such development and to recommend ways of streamlining the process.
The group has now completed its work, which is reflected in the following documents:
- Report of the Working Group on the Reuse of Existing Buildings
- Bringing Back Homes Manual for the reuse of existing buildings
- Bringing Back Homes print version
The Bringing Back Homes - Manual for the Reuse of Existing Buildings supports and facilitates the reuse of older / vacant buildings in our towns and cities for residential use. In order to encourage reuse and increase the number of viable, liveable properties, the manual provides clarity to industry, local authorities, members of the public and property owners on the application of the current regulatory requirements to common existing building types and guidance on how best to facilitate their reuse.
Vacant Homes Officers in each local authority will serve as the first point of contact for queries from parties interested in developing vacant buildings for residential purposes.
On foot of a commitment in Rebuilding Ireland, the Government’s 2016 Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, new planning regulations are now in place which allow the change of use, and related works, of certain vacant commercial premises, including “over the shop” type spaces, into residential use without the need to obtain planning permission.
Further information may be obtained in Circular PL 01/2018: Amendments to the Exempted Development Provisions in the Planning and Development Regulations or from your local planning authority.
Local authorities will work with owners of vacant homes to assist in whatever way they can to bring vacant homes back to use. However, where they deem it appropriate and necessary to the common good, they can also use legislative powers available to them to compulsorily purchase properties under the Housing Acts via Compulsory Purchase Orders.
Further Information on Vacant Homes is available from designated Vacant Homes Officers - Vacant Homes Officer contacts - in each administrative area
The Vacant Homes Unit,
Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government,
Tel: 01 888 2597 / 01 888 2595