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Housing plan to be delivered by October

Wednesday, 16th August, 2017 6:07pm

An action plan for Cork city, designed to quickly progress the delivery of vacant homes back into use, will be delivered by the end of October.

Furthermore, the deadline for all other County Action Plans are to be completed by the end of the year at the very latest.

This update was announced by Eoghan Murphy TD, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, as he outlined the key actions being taken by his Department and local authorities to quickly progress the vacant homes back into use in advance of the Vacant Homes Strategy to be announced in September.

Among the key initiatives being taken are:

• A dedicated Empty Homes Unit is being established within his Department’s Housing Delivery Office to drive and co-ordinate actions at central and local government levels and to support local authorities in their actions.

• All local authority Chief Executives were requested earlier this month to designate vacant homes officers in each of their authorities to examine Census 2016 and other data on vacant homes in their areas and identify, through a Vacant Homes Action Plan, priority ‘vacant hot-spot’ areas and properties that can be quickly brought back into use.

• Activating a website (vacanthomes.ie) as a central portal for individuals to anonymously log possible vacant properties and alert local authorities who can then follow up with the owners to see whether the house can be re-used quickly.

The website will also provide some useful information for property owners as to what steps are currently needed, and how, to bring their house back into use.

• Ensuring that all local authorities maximise the quick turnaround of their vacant social housing stock between lettings, through more efficient ongoing maintenance and upgrading of their properties so as to minimise ‘down-time’ and quicker identification of new tenants, through for example, the choice-based letting initiative.

• Building on the experiences under the Living City Initiative, early consideration with the relevant Government departments on whether a broad set of linked initiatives could be developed to address the range of urban vacancy issues; such as unused commercial properties, under-utilised upper-floor accommodation over shops, as well as conversion/upgrading of vacant properties through a co-ordinated and streamlined planning, fire safety and building standards process.

Minister Murphy said: “Increasing supply isn’t just about building new homes, it’s about managing the stock that we already have that’s not being used.

“There is more to come under the Strategy but this is the right start.

“We’re building new houses and we’re going to build more, but with the pent-up demand in the system from years of little or no construction activity, we have to manage empty homes back into use.

“Almost 80,000 vacant homes were identified in our cities and towns back in April 2016 when the Census took place. It’s critical that we get a proper handle on the vacancy levels, in terms of what’s changed and come back into use in the last 16 months, where they are and who owns these vacant properties.

“Armed with this information, we can then prioritise and target those areas where demand is greatest and help to increase the choice and availability of new homes to buy or rent.”

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