One of the country’s leading homeless agencies has urged the Government to make use of the tens of thousands of empty homes around the country to help end the homeless crisis.
On World Homeless Day (10 October) 2014, the Peter McVerry Trust called for action on empty buildings in private ownership.
As part of that call, it sought an immediate audit of the built
environment to accurately determine the number of empty residential and
commercial spaces, assessment of the condition these units were in, the
establishment of ownership of these units, and an understanding of why
spaces remained empty or underused.
This week, the charity addressed the Oireachtas Joint Committee on
Housing and Local Government, and made proposals on how to make use of
Census 2016 information shows that around 198,000 residential units,
excluding holiday homes, are vacant across the Irish State, with 50,000
of those in Ireland’s major cities. This figure equates to thirteen
empty houses for every one homeless person.
Francis Doherty, Head of Communications at the Peter McVerry Trust,
says there is simply no excuse not to tackle homelessness head on:
“Tackling empty homes is a no-brainer. They are quick to turn around.
They’re cheaper to turn around than waiting to build new homes.
are thousands of them in cities across Ireland. There are 13 empty homes
for every one homeless adult.
So what we would like for the committee
to take on board is the urgency in addressing the issue of vacant homes
and the potential they can play in solving the homeless crisis.”
In a wide-ranging submission which covered areas such derelict sites,
vacant properties, unused spaces and compulsory purchase orders, Brian
Friel, National Director of Housing with the Peter McVerry Trust, told
the Oireachtas enquiry that “even if every empty local authority house
was brought back into use it would only meet a small proportion of the
social housing and homeless need. Local authorities need to become
involved in the collation of data on empty properties and derelict sites
of all types and sizes”.
The Oireachtas Housing Committee was told that the Government’s
Housing Agency has rejected half the repossessed houses and apartments
offered by banks for social housing.
Figures released by agency Chief
executive John O’Connor reveal that the agency was last year allocated a
€70 million fund to purchase 1,600 homes over the next four years for
use by local authorities and voluntary housing bodies for tenants on
social housing waiting lists.
To date, the agency has been offered almost 700 homes, mostly by the
country’s main banks.
The agency made bids on just 347 of these homes
and had their bids accepted on 305, costing €46.57 million.
So far it
has signed contracts for 217 homes and 29 purchases have closed.
decision not to go ahead with a sale by the Housing Agency is made in
collaboration with the local authority in question.