herald

Monday 21 August 2017

'Carrot and stick' plan to force empty houses back into use

Minister Eoghan Murphy
Minister Eoghan Murphy

Dublin's four local authorities have been given until the end of October to come up with a plan for bringing vacant homes back into use.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy will launch a series of initiatives aimed at putting families into some of the country's nearly 200,000 empty properties.

He wants councils to examine census and other data to identify areas that are "vacant hot spots" so they can be prioritised in his plans.

The Dublin Bay South TD expects to have a City Action Plan for the capital in the coming weeks.

He will then adopt what he described as a "carrot and stick" approach to encourage property owners to make homes avail-able for rent.

"We're building new houses and we're going to build more, but with the pent-up demand in the system from years of little or no construction we have to manage empty homes back into use," Mr Murphy said.

Penalties

Discussions are under way with the Attorney General to investigate the feasibility of introducing penalties for homeowners who leave properties empty for a long period.

Among other measures being taken is the establishment of an Empty Homes Unit to coordinate a national response and the activation of a website for individuals to anonymously highlight vacant properties.

Mr Murphy intends to put draft regulations before the Dail on its return that will allow the change of use of vacant commercial and over-the-shop premises to residential use without having to seek planning permission.

"As I've said before, there's going to be a carrot and stick approach to this, which will be finalised in the coming month or so," Mr Murphy said.

"People with property interests need to be made aware that we are moving quickly on this."

The minister is under pressure to deliver reforms after the latest figures showed the homeless crisis worsening, despite the Government's heralded Rebuilding Ireland action plan.

In June there were 5,036 homeless adults, up from 4,922 in May. The number o f homeless families rose to 1,365.

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