Minister O’Brien launches new Vacant Homes Action Plan and details of new €150 million URDF vacancy fund
Today, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage also commenced a six-week multi-channel advertising campaign highlighting the supports available to people to buy, lease or sell vacant property, or convert vacant commercial property into homes.
The Vacant Homes Action Plan outlines progress in implementing actions relating to vacancy and efficient use of existing stock contained in Housing for All, the Government’s housing plan to 2030. Among the measures in the plan are:
• A €150 million URDF fund for vacancy related projects: A call for proposals from local authorities for funding to acquire a vacant or derelict property or site (residential or commercial) and associated works that may be required to de-risk or improve the site so that it is more attractive for re-use or sale. The fund will then be replenished from the proceeds received from sale or use of a site, thereby allowing a local authority establish a rolling programme to tackle long-term vacancy and dereliction without borrowing or the associated financial risk. This fund is being launched today. Housing for All committed to incorporating activation of vacant properties as key criteria in the URDF.
• Guidance on Compulsory Purchase Orders by local authorities, with an initial focus on derelict properties
• Rollout of a data collection project across all local authorities to capture the number of vacant and derelict properties
• Continuing support and development of the full-time role of the Vacant Homes Officer across local authorities.
Launching the Vacant Homes Action Plan and new URDF call for proposals today, Minister O’Brien said:
“The most efficient home to deliver is one that already exists. I want vacant properties in cities, towns and villages across the country to become homes – giving people the opportunity to live and participate in their local communities. The Vacant Homes Action Plan I launched today outlines the real progress the Government is making in addressing vacancy and details the upcoming measures that will bring even more vacant properties back into use. The new €150 million URDF call for proposals will help local authorities transform vacant and derelict buildings and sites in order to revitalise and regenerate our cities and large towns, and deliver more housing.
“I am delighted to be launching this plan and new call for regeneration proposals at the City Library Project at Parnell Square. This renovation project is a perfect illustration of the benefits to local communities when vacant and derelict sites are brought back into use.”
Minister of State with responsibility for Planning and Local Government, Kieran O’Donnell TD, added:
“Our department has begun a new six-week advertising campaign on supports for converting vacant property into homes. A range of supports exist for people who want to sell, lease or buy a vacant property. People can also convert certain vacant commercial properties into up to nine residential units without planning permission. I would encourage people visit gov.ie/vacancy to read more.”
Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan concluded,
“Bringing vacant homes back to life means sustainable communities and a better environment in which they can prosper. This €150M euro fund will support local authorities all across the country to breathe new life into their towns and cities and make them even better places in which to live, work, visit and invest.”
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, TD, has today received Government approval to draft legislation to support the remediation of apartments and duplexes with fire safety, structural safety and water ingress defects, constructed between 1991 and 2013. The legislation will provide a statutory basis for the establishment of a remediation scheme aimed at protecting the safety and welfare of those living in apartments or duplexes with such defects that occurred during construction.
A ‘whole building’ approach will be taken, ensuring common areas and shared spaces are also remediated where required to the relevant standard. It’s envisaged that the Housing Agency will play a central role in the administration of the scheme and that Owners’ Management Companies will be funded to carry out the necessary remediation works, with specific limitations or exemptions on certain commercial owners.
In order to ensure that important life-safety works are not paused, the Government has also decided that remediation works related to fire safety defects, entered into or commenced from today, will form part of the remediation scheme, subject to terms and conditions. Such works will need to be agreed with local authority Fire Services and the details of this process will be worked out as a priority and provided in due course. Government have approved the principle of allowing remediation costs already incurred or levied to be covered under the legacy defects scheme, within the scope and defined parameters of said scheme.
Speaking following the Government meeting, Minister O’Brien said:
"We know that there are significant legacy defects in a large number of apartments and duplexes and as a result, many owners of apartments and duplexes are facing difficult financial situations - alongside the personal stress that is caused - when defects arise in their buildings."
"The forthcoming scheme will help protect the safety and welfare of those currently living in apartments or duplexes with fire safety, structural safety and water ingress defects."
Minister O’Brien added:
"I have listened to calls from homeowner representative bodies and I am glad to report that Government have approved the principle of allowing remediation costs already incurred or levied to be covered under the legacy defects scheme, within the scope and defined parameters of said scheme. The details and mechanics of this will be worked out as the legislation is drafted."
Minister O’Brien concluded:
"When I was appointed Minister, I said that this was a nettle we had to grasp and I am committed to helping those whose lives have been impacted by this issue. My Department will now proceed to draft this legislation as quickly as possible."
"We also need to continue strengthening our building control system so that similar issues don’t arise in the future. I remain committed to establishing an independent building standards regulator with effective powers of inspection and enforcement and an appropriate suite of sanctions."
The scale of defects in apartments and duplexes is significant. The Working Group to Examine Defects in Housing that reported to Minister O’Brien in July 2022, estimated that between 50% and 80% of apartments and duplexes (or associated common areas) constructed between 1991 and 2013, may be affected by one or more fire safety, structural safety or water ingress defects. This equates to between 62,500 and 100,000 apartments/duplexes. The average cost of remediation is approximately €25,000 per unit, which means the scheme could have a potential cost to the Exchequer of between €1.5 billion and €2.5 billion.
Housing for All, the Government’s housing plan to 2030, committed to the examination of defects in housing through the establishment of an independent working group to identify the nature and scale of the problem.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, today (Monday 9 January) welcomed the launch of a further bundle of projects under the social housing Public Private Partnership (PPP) Programme, Bundle 6.
Today’s launch builds on the successful social housing PPP programme being delivered by the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA), in conjunction with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and relevant local authorities.
Significant progress has been made to date under the programme including:
“This government, through Housing for All, is committed to increasing the supply of social housing to an average of 10,000 social homes per annum between 2022 and 2030. There is a specific objective in Housing for All to increase the use of PPPs to deliver social housing, and more than 600 individuals and families will benefit from the latest social housing PPP bundle announced today.”
Work is ongoing to progress further phases under the programme and a call for suitable sites for future bundles of projects issued to all local authorities in November.
Minister O’Brien added:
“Cork County Council will act as the lead local authority for Bundle 6, and I want to commend them on their work to date. I had the pleasure of seeing first-hand some completed housing developments in County Cork last year which were progressed under Bundle 2 of the programme. The success of this initiative is evident from the high quality houses delivered under the programme so far, providing new homes for individuals and families.”
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, has announced that new income eligibility limits for social housing have taken effect.
From 1 January 2023, social housing income eligibility thresholds in Local Authorities across the country have been increased by €5,000.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said:
"It’s been over a decade since any changes have been made to the income eligibility thresholds and under Housing for All a commitment was made to review the eligibility limits.
"The new income limits are now in place across the country and all Local Authorities will have updated their own application forms and systems.
"Work is ongoing in developing a revised income eligibility model and this will be completed in 2023.