Vacant property policy 'a blind spot' as 166,000 houses lay empty

Housing policy analyst, Dr Lorcan Sirr said there was “a cultural tolerance” towards vacant houses given the prevalence of vacant homes that could be rehabilitated alongside new homes
Vacant property policy 'a blind spot' as 166,000 houses lay empty

Vivienne Clarke

Housing policy analyst, Dr Lorcan Sirr has described the Government’s vacant property policy as “a blind spot” and pointed out that only three local authorities in the country have full time officers dealing with vacant properties.

There were more rental properties available than previously thought, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, when commenting on the figures included in Census 2022.

Dr Sirr said there was “a cultural tolerance” towards vacant houses given the prevalence of vacant homes that could be rehabilitated alongside new homes for which planning permissions had been granted.

While the number of vacant properties in 2022 (166,000) was down from 182,000 in 2016, this was a reduction of only nine per cent, he said, which should have been far lower if the pace of the rate of reduction from 2011 to 2016 had continued.

“For all the discussion about vacant housing - and there's been a lot, it really is a policy blind spot within the Department of Housing - a nine percent reduction in such large numbers is not significant enough given the amount of housing demand that's out there”.

Dr Sirr acknowledged that the CSO figures for 2022 were provisional. “Not all of these houses will be available necessarily on a long term basis, but a large amount of them will.

“When you look at the reasons for vacancy - the largest reason was because they're rental properties - there's over 35,500 properties classified as vacant because they're rental.  My interpretation of this is that a large amount of these are short term lets, for example AirBnB, but it also gives lie to the idea that there's only 851 houses for rent in the country. There's obviously a lot more properties for rent around the country.

“Another 27,500 properties were declared vacant because the owners were deceased – there is a long and convoluted process of probate and selling after an owner dies”.

Dr Sirr added that of the 166,000 vacant homes in 2022, 48,000 had also been vacant in 2016, of those another 24,000 were also vacant in 2011.

“So for all the discussion about vacancy - remember the Government committed to having a vacant homes' officer in every local authority by last year, and only three local authorities have full time vacant homes officers, the rest are part-time, they haven't really been paying as much attention to this or resourcing it as much as possible - that's coming through now in the figures from the CSO”.

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