Director of Services at Mayo County Council and instigator of the web portal, www.vacanthomes.ie, Tom Gilligan, is asking owners of vacant homes to come forward to help to get families who are stuck in temporary or unsuitable housing into a home in time for Christmas.
This sounds like a big ask but it is an essential and urgent one. Bringing vacant homes back into use is potentially a quicker and faster way to increase the housing supply and will help get more people out of homelessness and emergency accommodation.
“We need to do everything we can to ensure more families get to celebrate Christmas in the comfort of a home as opposed to a hotel room or B&B and owners of empty homes can help in this regard”, says Gilligan.
From an analysis of figures, from the website www.vacanthomes.ie we can determine that there are significant properties with potential to be turned around within a relatively short period of time. We know this from the answers we are receiving back from properties being logged. 44% of replies have recorded ‘Yes’ as regards visible signs of peeling paint and an even higher figure of 53% of respondents are stating that grass around the property is overgrown. 21% of respondents state that the roof looks damaged and 24% confirm that windows are damaged or boarded over.
Although impossible to tell exactly what is needed until an inspection is made of the inside of the building from our own information and statistics it appears that more vacant homes could be brought back into use with significantly less spend and within a quicker time frame than a new build.
With last August’s homeless figures showing 10,338 people in emergency accommodation made up of 6,490 adults and 3,848 dependents, the need for housing has never been greater. Vacant homeowners are urged to come forward, particularly in areas where there is a housing need, to provide an opportunity and a fresh beginning for those that are currently experiencing homelessness.
Christmas is very much a time for families and togetherness, it’s a time for giving and helping others. Bringing a vacant home back into use can change people’s lives for the better. It provides a fresh start for those families experiencing homelessness and a way to kick off the New Year with hope, security and a sense of belonging.
“If vacant homeowners come forward immediately, and if the property is in a reasonable state of repair, with the right will and endeavour, there is no reason why the property can’t be turned around quickly and conveniently. Local Authorities are here to help vacant homeowners and will assist in any way they can.”
To date, the vacant homes website, an initiative of Mayo County Council on behalf of the local government sector has over 3,200 properties registered with the province of Leinster showing the highest percentage recorded at 48%. Munster has 36%, Connacht 13% and Ulster 3%. The number of properties brought or in the process of being brought back into use is nearly 300. Of the properties logged thus far, 90% are made up of either, Detached, Semi-Detached and Terraced houses.
Several government schemes are available, under the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, to assist property owners in getting their unit back into use.
The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) is available where a property requires repairs to bring it up to required standard for rented properties. The RLS will pay for the repairs up-front in return for the property being made available to be used as social housing for a period of at least 5 years under either a direct lease or Rental Availability Arrangement with the local authority. The maximum funding available is €40,000, inclusive of VAT. Where the property is a former bedsit being brought back into line with the Standards for Rented Houses, funding of up to €50,000, inclusive of VAT, is available.
Another scheme, the Long-Term Leasing Initiative, allows owners of vacant properties that are in good condition to lease their properties to local authorities.
Owners of vacant homes can approach their nearest local authority where the relevant Vacant Home Officer is available to offer help and assistance. Log on to www.vacanthomes.ie where a list and contact details for Vacant Home Officers are available.
This weekend, the team at Buyers Broker is working to identify owners of properties across Ireland that are capable of being brought back into use with only a few days upgrading work. Many of the local authorities have committed to a fast turnaround of these properties – including final survey/inspection – so that bureaucracy will not stand in the way of a family getting access to a home this side of the Christmas holidays.
This is an essential and now urgent call out to any owners of properties anywhere in Ireland that are currently vacant, or to any estate agents or indeed members of the public who might be aware of such properties to please register these with the team at VacantHomes.ie, Thank you.