Junior minister for housing Michael Finneran said the latest figures available to him are that there are 100,000 to 140,000 vacant properties across the country, not including holiday homes. At least 10,000 of these are in Dublin.
He now wants to target these for extended long term leasing and rental accommodation schemes to meet growing demands for social housing.
Mr Finneran made a presentation to the Cabinet last week on his strategy.
He said if there is a social housing demand at the same time that a slew of vacant properties exist, it would be remiss not to link one with the other.
“I would be a foolish minister if I did not try to match our problem [social housing] with their problem [vacant houses],” he said.
There are 56,000 people on local authority housing lists. More than 20,000 of these would already be placed in accommodation by councils under rent assistance schemes.
“I see an opportunity [after the property crash] because there are a lot of vacant properties and every cloud has a silver lining,” he said.
He has allocated €40 million for the long-term leasing scheme, targeted at 4,000 houses this year.
Another €80m will be spent on the rent accommodation scheme, set to open up 8,000 houses.
Mr Finneran said the latest figures available to the Department of the Environment are well over the 40,000 figure used by the Construction Industry Federation.
But he said the department’s figures are the most reliable estimate as they are not confined to those still held by developers.
However, many of the units are not suitable for the needs of those on the housing list because of size and access issues.
Mr Finneran said capital assistance grants will be used to adapt these houses and make them suitable for those with mobility problems or disabilities.