For Oral Answer on : 09/03/2023
Question Number(s): 141 Question Reference(s): 11614/23
Department: Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
* To ask the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage if he will report on the impact of the repair and leasing scheme and on the vacant property refurbishment grant scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– David Stanton T.D.
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 9 March, 2023.
Tackling vacancy is a key priority for this Government. Housing for All, sets out a suite of measures to address vacancy and make efficient use of our existing housing stock. Significant progress is being made and I welcome the opportunity to briefly mention progress on some of those. For example:
- The government launched the Town Centre First policy, a major new policy initiative that aims to tackle vacancy, combat dereliction and breathe new life into our town centres.
- A €150 million Urban Regeneration Development Fund is being made available for local authorities to acquire vacant or derelict properties and sites for re-use or sale.
- Full-time Vacant Homes Officers are now in place across 30 local authorities.
- The Croí Cónaithe Towns Fund is successfully supporting the refurbishment of vacant and derelict properties through Vacant Homes Refurbishment Grant and the provision of serviced sites for people to build their own homes through the Ready to Build Scheme.
- We have extended planning regulations that exempt certain vacant commercial premises from requiring planning permission to change of use for residential purposes and
- We will shortly be introducing a new programme for the CPO of vacant properties for resale on the open market.
One of the actions taken by Government has been the introduction of the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant. A grant of up to a maximum of €30,000 is available for the refurbishment of vacant properties for occupation as a principal private residence, including the conversion of a property which has not previously been used as residential. Where the refurbishment costs are expected to exceed the standard grant of up to €30,000, a maximum top-up grant amount of up to €20,000 is available where the property is confirmed to be derelict, bringing the total grant available for a derelict property up to a maximum of €50,000.
Feedback on the Grant has been very positive, with 1,250 applications reported to date. The Grant is focused on providing homes for applicants. While there are no plans currently to extend the Refurbishment Grant to allow for the rental of properties, the Repair and Leasing scheme is already available for the refurbishment of vacant properties for rental purposes.
The scheme is a crucial initiative in tackling vacancy under Housing for All, in addition to providing social housing. The scheme provides an upfront loan, to a maximum of €60,000 (including VAT) per unit to owners of vacant properties, which require work to bring the units up to the required standard for rental. In return, the property is made available for social housing for a period of between 5 and 25 years. The cost of repairs is offset against reduced lease payments to the property owner. Since its introduction, almost 350 properties have been brought back into use.
The Vacant Homes Action Plan, which I launched in January, outlines all of the progress that has been made in addressing vacancy along with the actions that are being pursued to return as many vacant properties back to viable use as possible. As part of the Plan, my Department will shortly be introducing a new programme for the CPO of vacant properties for resale on the open market. The Action Plan also contains a commitment to examine the potential use of compulsory sales orders. In this context, my Department will also consider the use of compulsory rental orders to give local authorities the power to acquire certain vacant properties for rent.
The most efficient home to deliver is one which already exists. I firmly believe that the commitment this Government has made to addressing vacancy and dereliction will continue to play a vital role in delivering homes and revitalising local communities.