For Written Answer on : 21/03/2023
Question Number(s): 487 Question Reference(s): 13628/23
Department: Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage further to Parliamentary Question No. 141 of 9 March 2023, if he will outline the local authorities that have applied to his Department for funding to appoint extra vacant property officers; the local authorities that have been approved such funding to date; the amount each has received; the number of resulting vacant property officers that have been appointed to each of these local authorities as a result; the local authorities that have had their applications refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Addressing vacancy and making efficient use of existing housing stock is a a key priority for Government, as set out in Pathway 4 of Housing for All. In January 2022, my Department communicated with local authorities outlining that funding, made available since 2018 to support the work of a Vacant Homes Office including a Vacant Homes Officer (VHO), would be increased from €50,000 to €60,000 per annum, from mid-2022.
This supports the commitment in Housing for All to ensure that VHOs are full-time. The provision of central funding reinforces the capacity of local authorities, including through the important role of VHOs, to ensure a dedicated focus on tackling vacancy and dereliction with a view to increasing the opportunities for residential development. 30 out of 31 local authorities now have a full time VHO in place.
The role of the VHO in each local authority is:
- To actively promote and lead the uptake within the local authority of various initiatives, schemes and funding programmes to address vacancy and bring vacant properties into residential use;
- To actively engage with owners of vacant properties and other relevant stakeholders and promote use of relevant schemes and supports to bring vacant properties into use;
- To collect, monitor and assess vacancy data locally and use that data to actively engage with property owners and promote schemes to encourage activation of properties; and
- Play a communication, promotion and advisory role both internally within the local authority and externally as a contact point for members of the public and key interested parties on vacant homes/properties.
VHOs across local authorities are supported in their work by the Vacant Homes Unit in my Department, working with the Housing Agency, with information and advice provided and dissemination of information and best practice. Quarterly meetings of all VHOs support this sharing of knowledge.
To date, no local authorities have contacted my Department to request funding for additional VHOs. The VHO role and funding position for VHOs will be kept under review by my Department.