Housing and homelessness organisation welcome announcement but say greater detail is required.
The Simon Communities in Ireland have welcomed the publication of the Government’s National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy. The housing and homelessness organisation said that, in the short term, focusing on vacant housing offers obvious opportunities to provide permanent homes for those that need them urgently.
Niamh Randall, Spokesperson for the Simon Communities said the report is welcome and long over-due.
‘We have been looking forward to this strategy since plans were announced in 2017. Managing housing stock management across the country more effectively is a matter that requires urgent intervention. People experiencing homelessness and housing instability have been waiting far too long. There are 183,312 vacant homes around the country and this is really unforgivable at a time when there are nearly 10,000 in emergency accommodation and many more living in housing insecurity. We need to have forensic examination of Local Authority housing stock with additional funding mechanisms structured to incentivise swift turnaround. The commitment to exploring ‘possible additional legislative powers’ for Local Authorities needs more detail. Consistent standards and proactive approaches to stock management needs resourcing and should roll out nationwide as a matter of priority.’
‘The Simon Communities have been highlighting the potential of vacant homes for some considerable time now culminating in our Ten Point Plan published in March 2017. We would like to see greater detail on some of the commitments outlined in today’s Strategy. It is important that any measures are reasonable and targeted but it is also clear that effectively addressing the issue means there must be both incentives and taxation. There is reference within the strategy to exploration of possible taxation measures. Homes empty for more than 12 months should be subject to a vacant property tax. The tax, based on property value or potential rental income, would increase the longer a property remains vacant. The use of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) and the introduction of Compulsory Leasing Orders (CLOs) should be considered. CLOs would enable Local Authorities to seek permission to force a lease on the owner of an empty property and then undertake refurbishment costs to make the property ready for letting. The property could then be used as social housing and the rent paid could potentially offset the cost of refurbishment. Exisiting schemes, such as the Repair and Lease Scheme, should be reviewed to ensure they are working effectively. Uptake of the Repair and Lease scheme has been low and this should be reviewed with targets revised upwards, ensuring the schemes can attract the greatest number of homeowners possible.’
‘We again welcome the commitment to engage with the Housing Agency and Approved Housing Bodies. AHBs must be supported to the greatest extent to participate in this process given their proven track record in providing housing services to those that need them most. Priority must be given to those with the greatest housing needs.’
‘Over 183,000 homes are identified as empty and there are numerous reasons cited for this including probate, property left through death of relatives and investment. There is an urgent need for improved data collection and monitoring so that the most up to date information is at hand. We welcome the commitment within this strategy to establish robust and up-to-date data. The use of vacant housing stock alone will not solve current crisis or prevent future housing crises. This cannot happen again. Successive Governments must ensure the building and delivery of sustainable social and affordable housing output.’
The Simon Communities deliver support, housing, homeless and treatment services to over 11,000 people and families who experience or are at risk of homelessness on an annual basis.
For media queries and interview requests
Tel: 01 671 1606/ 085 806 5141
About Simon Communities
The Simon Communities in Ireland are a network of eight regionally based independent Simon Communities based in Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, the Midlands, the Mid West, the North West and the South East that share common values and ethos in tackling all forms of homelessness throughout Ireland, supported by a National Office. The Simon Communities have been providing services in Ireland for over 40 years. The Simon Communities deliver support and service to over 8,300 individuals and families throughout Ireland who experience – or are at risk of – homelessness every year. Whatever the issue, for as long as we are needed, Simon’s door is always open. For more information please log on to www.simon.ie
Services range from
- Housing provision, tenancy sustainment & settlement services, housing advice & information services helping people to make the move out of homelessness & working with households at risk;
- Specialist health & treatment services addressing some of the issues which may have contributed to homeless occurring or may be a consequence;
- Emergency accommodation & support providing people with a place of welcome, warmth & safety;
- Soup runs & rough sleeper teams who are often the first point of contact for people sleeping rough.