Housing supply

System needed to track vacant properties to increase housing supply, conference says – The Irish Times

A reliable system to track the exact number of vacant properties statewide is needed to help increase housing supply, a conference heard.

With growing pressures on services and a lack of private rental housing, the Simon Community’s Ending Homelessness conference heard that efforts to utilize empty buildings were insufficient.

The 2022 census recorded 166,752 vacant homes, down 9% from 2016, while the number of unoccupied holiday homes fell from 62,148 to 66,135.

Revenue data shows 57,206 self-reported vacant properties, and the GeoDirectory for the second quarter of 2022 classified 86,708 as vacant across Ireland.

“They can’t all be wrong, but we need to know [precise numbers]said Tom Gilligan, founder of Vacant Homes Ireland, a crowdsourcing website that allows members of the public to register unused properties.

“It’s not like they’re hidden, they’re there in plain sight. We need to agree on a methodology around that…a robust national database that gives us a definitive number.

Mr Gilligan, who is also director of services at Mayo County Council, criticized an apparent lack of ambition in the government’s repair and hire scheme, noting targets of just 120 units by 2022.

“There are owners who, for whatever reason, just aren’t motivated to get properties back into use,” he said. “At a time when we have such a major housing crisis, this is wrong and it is immoral.”

Ali Harvey, planning and development manager at the Heritage Council who is working on a town center assessment and development system, said vacancy rates in the Republic were often much higher than elsewhere in Europe .

In the Netherlands and Denmark, she said, action was taken when urban vacancy reached levels of around 12%.

“The alarm bells didn’t ring in Ireland when we hit 11%, 12%. That’s why I work with cities that are [now] at 24%, 31%, she said.

“The Danes knew and the Dutch know what the figure is supposed to be. So why is there no discussion at a political level in this country that we should never have exceeded 11%?”

Economic factors

The discussion around the need to closely monitor and address vacancy rates has taken place against the backdrop of homeless services trying to meet demand in the depths of a housing crisis, exacerbated by inflation and other economic factors.

Noel Daly, chief executive of the NorthWest Simon Community, which covers a population of more than 271,000 people, said in some cases people have no choice but to stay in accommodation where abuse can take place .

“The best offer from the local authorities at the moment is to go back where you came from because we don’t have a bed [available],” he said.

“There’s a rationality to that because the number of hostel beds in the area is very small, so they don’t want to put a woman with three kids in a hostel that might have five single men with addiction issues. .”

In the North West, the official weekly average of 43.3 homeless in 2016 had risen to 88 in 2021.

Warning conference attendees of a “very bleak and depressing” picture, Sharon Keogh, senior executive at Dublin Simon, presented data which showed a 28% rise in homelessness in the capital over the past 12 last months.

It’s increasingly a problem faced by less typical victims – in the first half of 2022, 13% of those seeking emergency accommodation were employed, up from 4% last year.