For Oral Answer on : 18/05/2023
Question Number(s): 160 Question Reference(s): 23077/23
Department: Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage if he has received a funding request from Cork County Council to support the appointment of additional vacant homes officers; 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.
To support local authorities in addressing vacancy, my Department increased funding made available since 2018 to support the work of a Vacant Homes Office including a Vacant Homes Officer (VHO), 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 including Cork County Council who have received €60,000 to support their Vacant Homes Office.
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 incuding the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant and Ready to Build Scheme 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.
In acknowledgement of the administrative overheads local authorities experience in managing the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant and the Ready to Build Scheme, my Department is providing initial support to each local authority in respect of processing applications. This support is linked to the number of applications received with €60,000 provided where up to 50 applications have been received; an additional €60,000 where 51 to 100 applications are received and an additional €60,000 where over 100 applications are received by the local authority. As part of this funding, Cork County Council have received €120,000 to date.
I understand Cork County Council have made a submission to my Department in relation to the appointment of additional staff to address vacancy and this is currently under consideration.