For Written Answer on : 29/11/2023
Question Number(s): 88 Question Reference(s): 52696/23
Department: Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage the resources made available to, and drawn down by, Cork County Council in respect of the appointment of full-time vacant homes officers; the number of such full-time officers currently employed and supported by his Department in Cork County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Addressing vacancy and making efficient use of existing housing stock is 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.
All 31 local authorities now have a full time, dedicated 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. The Vacant Homes Unit supports the VHOs and the VHO network, providing information and advice, facilitating dissemination of information and best practice.
Cork County Council received additional funding of €140,000 in 2023 in relation to 4 additional staff, as requested. This is in addition to the annual €60,000 funding provided for the Vacant Homes Office and €180,000 of funding to support the administration of the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant.
Any request for further increased support will be considered on the basis of a business case made by the individual local authority, including detail of current allocation and co-ordination of resources dealing with vacancy and dereliction, the roles to be undertaken by the resources requested and the expected outputs, with applications considered on a case by case basis.
While my Department has a role in strategic workforce planning within the local government sector, Section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides that each Chief Executive is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible.