The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, today published figures showing 2,307 vacant social homes were brought back into active use in 2022 under the Voids Programme. This is just above the anticipated figure of 2,273 vacant social homes, indicating that the intensive work in 2020 and 2021 by local authorities in this area has reduced the number of vacant social homes. The Voids Programme support local authorities in preparing vacant homes for re-letting.
Making more efficient use of existing housing stock is a key action in the government’s Housing for All plan. The Voids Programme builds on the ongoing work to tackle vacancy and dereliction and bring vacant properties into re-use for housing.
Minister O’Brien said:
“Apart from the obvious advantages of meeting demand for social housing, the return of these vacant social homes has a positive impact on communities. It helps avoid vacant homes becoming run down and derelict in some instances and the source of anti-social behaviour.
“Local authorities seized the opportunity to bring these homes back into active use in 2022 and this will make a real difference to the lives of over 2,300 households.
“It’s important to note and welcome the fact that nationally the number of vacant social homes requiring pre-letting works was lower in 2022 than in 2021 or 2020. This clearly shows that our plan is working.
"In 2020 and 2021 we spent more than €88 million bringing 6,032 vacant social homes back into use, and evidently, we are reducing the number of voids in need of refurbishment works following those two intense years of tackling vacancy.
“We are now progressively shifting to a position of planned maintenance of social housing stock to ensure minimal turnaround and re-let times for social housing stock.”
In 2022, local authorities recouped almost €29 million in funding for stock improvement programmes for the refurbishment of vacant local authority-owned social housing. Of the €28.9 million, €3.6 million supported the transition to planned maintenance and included funding towards stock condition surveys.
The number of vacant social homes that had works done to prepare them for pre-letting was lower in 2022 than in 2021 and 2020. This is a result of the intense two-year period of tackling long-term social housing vacancy and legacy vacancy. It was always envisaged that the programme would revert to more normalised levels in 2022.
Local authorities are continuing to transition from a response-based approach to a strategic and informed planned maintenance approach to social housing. This is based on stock condition surveys. The planned maintenance/voids programme in 2022 supported this.
The Local Authority Home Loan was launched in January 2022 as part of Housing for All. It supports creditworthy borrowers who are unable to get finance from commercial banks to buy a home. It can be used for new, second hand or self-build homes. It means those on more moderate incomes are helped by the State to achieve homeownership, a key aim for this Government.
The following changes to the Local Authority Home Loan will come into effect on 01 March 2023:
Increases to house price limits for all local authorities areas
“I am delighted to announce these improvements to the Local Authority Home Loan which will take effect from March 1st. Supporting home ownership is a key objective for this Government and the increase in eligible house prices coupled with the increase in income limits will mean more people can access the loan.
"Importantly, building on changes made this time last year we are again increasing the income limit for single applicants so that those earning up to €70,000 who wish to purchase a home can avail of the State backed loan. The ‘Fresh Start Principle’ also applies whereby people who are divorced or separated and have no interest in the family home, or who have undergone insolvency proceedings, can also avail of the loan.
"The changes reflect the reality of today’s housing market and we will continue to keep the Local Authority Home Loan under review to ensure it remains a genuine and relevant support for people who want to own their own home.”
Since February 2018 over 3,300 people have got on the property ladder through the Local Authority Home Loan and its predecessor the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan.
Minister O’Brien, along with Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Pascal Donohoe TD, will sign the amendment regulations in the coming weeks. The changes will take effect on 01 March 2023.
A Local Authority Home Loan offers two fixed interest rate products:
The maximum amounts that can be borrowed will be as follows:
Active Travel Allocations 2023
More than €17M for Fingal County Council under Active Travel Investment Grants. Improved walking & cycling infrastructure including cycling lanes, pedestrian routes and wider footpaths for North County Dublin.
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.”