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Speed in tackling vacant social housing ‘critical’ to regeneration

Almost 2,500 vacant homes have been returned to active use in 2023 under the Government’s Voids Programme, following a significant uplift in funding.

A total of 2,481 vacant social homes were brought back into active use across local authorities in 2023 under the Voids Programme, after a significant uplift in funding of €46 million.

Whilst 2023 did not obtain the largest expenditure and units returned, there is a significant increase from the year prior, with €28.9 million funding provided and 2,307 units returned in 2022. The highest amount of funding took place during the Covid-19 pandemic, with €56.5 million funding and 3,607 units returned. This figure suggests that there is a correlation between Government expenditure and the number of units being returned.

In 2019, €26.7 million was provided to return 1,503 vacant homes. When comparing the years 2014 to 2019 and 2020 to 2023, €1.45 billion was given in funding from 2014 to 2019, in comparison to €1.63 billion from 2020 to 2023.

Reflecting on the voids data which examines the total units returned between 2014 to 2023 across all local authorities, the highest returns equating to 3,607 units took place in 2020, with €56.5 million of total funding. Comparatively, the lowest returns took place in 2018, with 1,765 units returned and €26.2 million of funding provided.

When comparing per local authority, between 2014 to 2023, the highest units returned took place within Dublin City Council, with €86.8 million of funding provided and 5,252 units returned. Furthermore, the lowest units returned took place in Leitrim, with €2.7 million of funding and 207 units returned.

The total funding between 2014 and 2023 equated to €335.8 million with 23,315 units returned.

Of the €46 million recouped to local authorities for the Voids Programme in 2023, €3.4 million supported the continuation of payments towards planned maintenance and included funding towards stock condition surveys, which aims to help ensure quicker turnarounds for putting existing stock back into use.

Since 2020, the Government has spent over €163 million to return 10,820 homes to active use. This is almost half (46 per cent) of the homes returned in the lifetime of the programme since 2014 (23,315 units).

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD said: “Refurbishment and the return to use of vacant properties helps to reduce pressure on existing housing stock, increase supply, and ultimately, provide much needed homes for people.

“Apart from addressing the need for social housing, the refurbishment of these unoccupied social homes also has a positive impact on communities. It prevents the decline and abandonment of vacant properties, which, in some instances, can lead to antisocial behaviour.

“Speed in tackling vacant social housing is also critical to regeneration and improving the vitality and vibrancy of communities in towns and cities across the country. Through this Housing for All action, we have now shifted to a position of planned maintenance of social housing stock to ensure the fastest possible turnaround and re-let times for social housing stock.”

The Voids Programme

The latest homelessness bulletin (April 2024) shows that there are currently 14,009 people are accessing emergency accommodation throughout the State. This is in spite of the Census 2022 figures which show that there are currently 166,792 vacant homes and apartments.

Census 2022 outlines that there are now 330,632 homes rented from private landlords, and the proportion of owner-occupied homes has fallen from almost 70 per cent to 66 per cent, in the 11 years to 2022.

Making more efficient use of existing housing stock is a key action of the Government’s Housing for All plan. The Voids Programme aims to support local authorities in preparing vacant homes for re-letting and builds on the ongoing work to tackle vacancy and dereliction to bring vacant properties into re-use for housing.

Within the Voids Programme, units returned can be defined as the number of vacant homes back into active use.