After years of perceived inaction on vacancy and dereliction, the Government has announced plans to try to get to grips with the issue. Councils and private owners can avail of new supports.
Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien has announced a €150m injection into the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) for local authorities to tackle vacant and derelict buildings in their areas.
It means councils will have funds to identify buildings in their communities that are vacant, buy them, and do them up. It applies to homes and commercial properties.
Once the newly restored building is sold or rented, the money generated will then be put back into the €150m fund, allowing councils to be able to keep tackling the problem without being financially on the hook themselves.
The department wants derelict houses to be a main focus, so councils will have guidance on how to compulsorily purchase such buildings. A database on to capture the number of vacant and derelict properties will be used by all local authorities. Dedicated vacant housing officers will be expected to step up their roles for each council.
The Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant was launched last July for properties in towns and villages and expanded in November to cities and other rural areas. It provides up to €30,000 in grants if someone wants to restore a vacant property to live in as their main home.
If a property is derelict, that grant rises to €50,000. This is along with up to nearly €27,000 in further separate grants potentially available from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
Not a catch as such, but there are quite stringent conditions to qualify for the scheme. You must have proof of ownership or evidence of active negotiations to buy the property from an estate agent or the owner, and it must be used as a main home.
The property cannot be rented out afterwards, and you must have proof that it has been vacant for at least two years, and that it is built before 1993. Other requirements included for derelict sites are an independent report from a qualified professional that the property is structurally unsound and dangerous, and confirmation it is on the derelict sites register.
Local councils will administer the grants for potential homeowners and will prioritise applications in areas where the level of vacancy or dereliction is high. The level of grant will be decided by the local authority following a final inspection and you will have to provide receipted spend.
Previously, those who moved to nursing homes and wanted to rent out their properties would only get to keep 20% of the rental income, and many decided it just was not worth the hassle for such a small amount, and preferred to leave the home vacant. That has now been changed, with people now allowed to keep 60%.