'Let workers live above shops to beat housing shortage', retailers told
Encouraging retail owners in Dublin to turn the space above their shops into homes could help solve the housing crisis, the Peter McVerry Trust has said.
The Living Over The Shop incentive scheme was first proposed in 1994, based on the notion of providing tax incentives to transform empty floors above city shopping streets into new homes.
However, major problems such as insurance, security issues and fire regulations have prevented the incentive from getting the go-ahead.
Several failed attempts to launch the scheme have been made since then, but now the housing charity believes it could help many people who are in need of a home.
The trust's national director of services Brian Friel said the scheme could bring additional life back into Dublin.
"You could have more people living in the city centre and see additional life being brought back into the capital, and also meet the challenges of people who are looking for a home," he said.
"It could also see fewer people having to move out of the city."
Retail Excellence deputy CEO Lorraine Higgins said the incentive is something she strongly supports.
"This scheme is all about providing tax incentives to retailers and other people who own properties," she said.
"There are thousands and thousands of properties throughout the country in such a situation.
"In my opinion, it's a no-brainer and will certainly encourage people who own these properties to improve them for residential use."
Ms Higgins was speaking at the Peter McVerry Trust's Business For Homes 2017 conference.
The charity highlighted the "growing issue" of people who have jobs but are still at risk of homelessness.
"People in employment are increasingly at risk of homelessness, particularly in the retail sector," said Mr Friel.
"The sector wouldn't have the highest-paid demographic. Retailers have a certain contingent of employees who have an interest in ensuring that they have access to housing.
"The trust has been working with those who are most directly impacted, with those who don't have a home.
"We're also conscious and have preventable measures in place for people not actually on the street, but not far from it."
Ms Higgins said rising rents are "swallowing up" incomes.
"In Dublin, we have a situation were there's a lack of available properties, which is pushing rents higher and higher and impacting affordability," she said.
"Some of my members are telling me that their employees are looking to be relocated in other parts of the country.
"They're saying their rent is too high. They're spending too long commuting and have less chance of owning their own home."