Vacant homes plan delayed until after the budget

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has come under fire after admitting that the Government’s vacant homes plan may not be published until after the budget.

Mr Murphy has been accused in the Dáil of lacking a “sense of urgency” on freeing up nearly 200,000 vacant properties around the country which could ease the homelessness crisis.

Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan expressed her disappointment after it was revealed the vacant home strategy, which was due in the spring, has been delayed until at least late autumn.

“The fact that we have nearly 200,000 vacant houses in the country, excluding holiday homes, and that a large number of those are in our urban centres and in our cities in particular, is a real opportunity and there is not the sense of urgency which there should be with regard to bringing a reasonable percentage of those homes back into use, to be used by people who are currently homeless or on housing waiting lists,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

Mr Murphy told the Dáil he is reviewing the entire Rebuilding Ireland strategy, developed by his predecessor Simon Coveney to address the rental, housing, and homelessness crisis.

While Mr Murphy said the first draft of the vacant homes element of the Government’s wider housing strategy is “very good”, he added that it is not ambitious enough.

“I will be using the current review of Rebuilding Ireland to see what new ideas we can bring to bear. This will require engagement with the Minister for Finance,” he said.

“If budgetary measures are needed to reinforce the ambition, this may delay the publication of the strategy but this will not delay the commencement of work. There is a lot of information to be gathered in order to have a targeted, effective approach but existing property interests should note that changes are coming.”

It has been reported that Mr Murphy, along with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, is considering raising the amount of property tax homeowners pay on vacant houses. Along with incentivising people to make use of houses, raising property tax would also take in extra funds to allow Government make cuts to income tax.

Mr Murphy said making sure vacant properties are lived in would require “a carrot-and-stick approach”.

Ms O’Sullivan said Labour would support the Government if it goes ahead with a tax on vacant homes. “If that is one of the reasons he is saying that he will have to delay until after the budget, let us by all means move on some of the other measures and then bring this tax in at that time. I would certainly support it,” she said.

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