Government misses its own target on vacant homes by 70%

Some 198 homes had been brought back into use under the Repair and Lease scheme to August 2020, despite promises to deliver 3,500 homes through the measure by this year
Government misses its own target on vacant homes by 70%

Efforts to bring vacant homes back into use have been a "huge failure" as it emerged that the Government has missed its own targets by 70%. Picture: Larry Cummins

Efforts to bring vacant homes back into use have been a "huge failure" as it emerged that the Government has missed its own targets by 70%.

Over the past four years, just 1,672 of the 5,600 homes promised have been delivered via the three schemes set up to bring vacant properties back into use.

Figures obtained by Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin show that 198 homes had been brought back into use under the Repair and Lease scheme to August 2020, despite promises to deliver 3,500 homes through the measure by this year.

Funding of €10.7m was provided for the scheme last year alone, however, 10 local authorities, including Cork City, South Dublin, Clare, and Galway, have spent nothing on the scheme since 2017.

"Housing delivery from the Repair and Leasing Scheme can only be described as a huge failure," he said.

The amount allocated to the scheme has increased to €11m this year and the grants available to prospective landlords to bring properties up to standard will rise from €40,000 to a maximum of €60,000.

Information provided by Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien shows that 670 new social homes were delivered via the Buy and Renew scheme up to the end of 2020. 

This scheme was set up to allow local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies purchase and renew properties in need of remediation before making them available for social housing.

Mr Ó Broin added that only 804 homes have been purchased out of the €70m rolling Housing Agency fund, which was established to acquire vacant properties from portfolios for sale from financial institutions and investors for social housing purposes.

The Government had set a target of 1,600 properties by 2020 as part of Rebuilding Ireland and Mr Ó Broin said 1,800 homes had been offered.

Along with giving councils increased compulsory purchase order powers, Mr Ó Broin said the Government must roll out a specific scheme to bring some homes stuck in the Fair Deal scheme back into use.

Responding to this call, Mr O'Brien said the programme for government commits to a reform the Fair Deal scheme to incentivise renting out vacant properties.

"My department is currently engaging with the Department of Health in relation to these actions.

He said his department and the Department of Health are currently "exploring proposals to enable vacant properties owned by patients in long-term nursing home care to be brought back into early use, through adjustments to the treatment of rental income and house sale proceeds derived from a principal private residence in the financial assessment of income for the purposes of the Fair Deal scheme."

However, he said this would require amendments to legislation.

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