While Fingal County Council is committed to continuing the construction of new properties to help meet ever increasing demand in one of Ireland’s fastest growing and youngest regions, the Council is also taking significant strides in addressing dereliction and vacancy in the county.
Fingal has a high demand for housing across all tenures, so with an innovative strategy in place, the county is actively transforming neglected properties into vibrant, habitable homes. This ambitious initiative aims to increase housing supply by harnessing the untapped potential of derelict and vacant properties. The Council believes that by rejuvenating these properties, it is not only addressing the shortage of homes but also contributing to sustainable development.
Launched in Portrane on a site where 14 derelict and vacant cottages are being refurbished by the Council, Fingal’s Vacant Homes Action Plan provides a comprehensive roadmap for bringing abandoned properties back to life. The plan’s primary goal is to refurbish and reimagine these derelict structures as liveable homes, thereby increasing the availability of housing options.
According to Robert Burns, Fingal’s Director of Housing: “We wanted to ensure that the strategy we had in place would give us a proactive approach to utilising existing resources and maximising their potential. These idle assets, however, represent more than just decaying structures—they symbolise potential homes for people, meaning we can meet the pressing demand for social and affordable housing and help revitalise communities.”
The Council’s plan outlines several key strategies for achieving its objectives. These include identifying and mapping vacant properties, establishing partnerships with local stakeholders, providing financial incentives to property owners, and facilitating community engagement. Fingal believes this will help to breathe new life into as many properties as possible, prioritising those that are most suitable for conversion and helping deliver in areas right across the county.
With continued commitment and collaboration, Fingal’s strategy serves as a beacon of hope and a model for others dealing with housing challenges. In doing so, the Council is determined to use every available tool and resource, moving beyond mere aspiration and into action.
Moreover, the Council understands the necessity of community buy-in and support. As such, the plan outlines a proactive approach towards community engagement, aiming to encourage residents to report vacant properties, whilst also ensuring they are informed about the progress of renovation projects in their local area. Not all vacant properties are located in what might be perceived to be deprived areas, nor are they necessarily derelict, boarded-up, or causing a problem.
“This is a win-win solution for both the community and those in need of a home, be it an owner taking advantage of the various grants the Government has made available or if it is the Council getting stock rapidly into use for those on our waiting lists. We are committed to providing the necessary support and incentives to facilitate the transformation of these properties into much-needed homes,” says Burns.
Fingal’s diligent efforts in identifying and engaging with property owners have led to numerous vacant properties being revived as habitable dwellings. Since 2019, over 70 homes have been bought back into use via schemes such as the Buy and Renew Scheme, the Repair and Lease Scheme, Compulsory Purchase Order and engagement with property owners. Having a progressive strategy that seeks to transform derelict and vacant properties into habitable homes is key to this, and while the challenges are significant, the Council is determined to meet them head-on.
Alongside the progress in bringing properties back into occupancy themselves, the Council has also approved 13 Croí Cónaithe vacant property refurbishment grant applications for private property owners with a further 36 applications currently under assessment.
One of the most promising initiatives within this comprehensive plan is the ambitious restoration of 14 vacant and derelict cottages at Portrane, properties which have been provided to the Council by the HSE. Refurbishment was recently completed on three of these properties and they are on offer to social housing applicants. The balance of the properties is moving through the tender and works stage of the overall restoration programme. These quaint houses, once brimming with character and warmth which had become vacant and dilapidated. Yet, they symbolize immense potential, poised to be transformed into desirable homes, while also preserving a tangible piece of Fingal’s rich history.
“We wanted to ensure that the strategy we had in place would give us a proactive approach to utilising existing resources and maximising their potential. These idle assets, however, represent more than just decaying structures—they symbolise potential homes for people, meaning we can meet the pressing demand for social and affordable housing and help revitalise communities.”
Robert Burns, Fingal’s Director of Housing
Beyond alleviating the increasing demand for housing, in undertaking projects like the restoration of the former HSE cottages at Portrane, Fingal believes that it is also feeding into a broader narrative of community identity and pride.
This approach is not lost on the new Mayor of Fingal, Adrian Henchy, who, in fact, grew up in one of the 14 cottages that has been revived into a new family home. He is keen to focus his term as Mayor on delivering more houses across the County, not just the bricks and mortar of the homes themselves but by also ensuring sustainable communities are in place around them.
“By preserving the past and embracing the future simultaneously, Fingal is showcasing how respecting heritage and addressing current housing demands need not be mutually exclusive,” Henchy says.
“I am obviously delighted that somewhere where I was born and bred is getting a new lease of life. I am sure that it will bring a new family many happy memories like those I experienced living next to the Fingal coastline, particularly where it has a thriving and welcoming community surrounding it. What is more, this is being in a way that is helping deliver hope for more sustainable, inclusive, and historically conscious urban development in Fingal and beyond.”
Fingal’s Vacant Homes Action Plan stands as a testament to the county’s commitment to addressing the housing crisis in a sustainable way and being mindful of the Government’s Housing for All Strategy, in particular Pathway 4: “Addressing vacancy and efficient use of existing housing stock”.
By repurposing derelict and vacant properties directly and assisting property owners do so themselves, Fingal are not only expanding the availability of affordable and social housing, but also assisting the revitalising of neighbourhoods and the creation of vibrant communities.