By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
A multi-million euro fund that aims to bring vacant buildings back into use will focus on the areas in Ireland with the highest vacancy and dereliction rates.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien launched the third round of the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) on Monday, worth 150 million euro, to help boost housing supply amid worsening rates of homelessness.
The fund asks local authorities to propose residential or commercial sites along with the work needed to de-risk or improve the site so that it is more attractive for re-use or sale.
The fund is expected to be replenished from the proceeds received from sale or use of a site, allowing a local authority establish a rolling programme to tackle long-term vacancy and dereliction without borrowing.
The Housing Minister is hoping that a new fund will help “get to grips and tackle the scourge of vacancy” in Ireland.
“(Government has put a) clear focus on vacancy, we don’t want to see vacant and derelict buildings lying idle for decades and decades. That’s not what we want to see.”
“What will happen with the fund, we’ll allocate the money for local authority on the basis of population, and on the basis of the level of dereliction or vacancy within that particular local authority.”
“The whole focus will be in relation to delivering residential units – homes – for people. Submissions will come in by April this year, and we can then get moving with what to work with.”
On the supply of housing and worsening homeless figures, Mr O’Brien said that government was about to bring about “the highest amount of social homes delivered in about 50 years”.
“We’re seeing a levelling off on on homeless numbers.
“It’s still too high, and I want to see those numbers come down because behind all those numbers are people, are families, are kids, many of whom I meet.
“But there are complexities within the homeless situation at the moment, we brought in very significant new protections around the winter eviction ban to give us space to deliver more properties.
“But I’m hopeful for this year, I’m hopeful in relation to new housing delivery – even all the challenges that we had around supply chain, cost inflation and that but we’re moving in the right direction.
The fund and a new Vacant Homes Action Plan was launched at the old Gaelscoil Cholaiste Mhuire building at Parnell Square in Dublin, which has been earmarked as a city library.
Also under the plan is the government’s Croi Conaithe scheme, which gives homeowners access to a grant of up to 50,000 euro for derelict properties and 30,000 euro for vacant properties.
Nine hundred applications for people in towns alone have been made, in what Mr O’Brien called “a strong response”. The fund is also available for properties in cities.
The minister also launched guidance on Compulsory Purchase Orders by local authorities, with an initial focus on derelict properties; a data collection project to measure dereliction; and the “development” of full-time vacant homes officers.
There are 30 full-time vacant homes officers in 31 local authorities across the country, he added.
A six-week advertising campaign is also planned to highlight support available to people to buy, lease or sell vacant property, or convert vacant commercial property into homes.
A Cabinet sub-committee on housing due to meet on Monday is to discuss homelessness, the minister said, adding that he didn’t expect tax breaks for development to be discussed.