Wednesday 3rd April 2019

Question on vacant housing

Deputy Declan Breathnach: Many are debating the issue of housing.  The Minister and Minister of State responsible for housing are in the House.  The public is very cynical about any progress on this issue.  The Central Statistics Office told us that, in 2016, in excess of 12% of houses were vacant.  We are approaching local elections.  Anybody who examines 100 good houses in any housing estate, in my constituency or elsewhere across the country, will see that one in 12 is unoccupied.  Those living on either side of a vacant property say the residents have gone away.  Most of the properties are owned by the banks, which are sitting waiting to make more money on the backs of the people.  I have asked the Minister and Minister of State on several occasions when they will take a leaf out of the book of the local authority in Louth.  It acquired properties that belonged to the banks through compulsory purchase order and there was no challenge taken constitutionally.  I challenge anybody in this House who is out canvassing to identify why any 100 houses are unoccupied.  It is time we got to grips with this issue.  The people are laughing at those of us in this House who are not challenging the Government on the issue of good vacant houses.

   Deputy Eoghan Murphy: I thank the Deputy for the question.  We are aware that the CSO numbers from 2016 include homes that were for rent or for sale and holiday homes.  Therefore, the statistic does not give the true number of vacant homes in the country.  We now have a vacancy team in each of our 31 local authorities.  The teams submitted their plans to my Department and are doing a deep dive to find out whether homes are truly vacant or whether they are just homes for sale or holiday homes.  To get vacant homes from banks, we do not have to issue a compulsory purchase order, although we do in some instances.  We actually engage through the Housing Agency with each of the financial lending institutions to take their vacant homes and bring them into social housing use.  It is happening in every local authority area.