There is a building at the end of my street that was used as a fitness studio until 2010 but has remained vacant since then.

It could be a home for a family. But it is not counted in official statistics as vacant property, nor listed by Dublin City Council on the Wreck Register. It can be owned by Nama, the banks, or the owner can just sit on it.

This is part of the crisis of hidden dereliction; tens of thousands of abandoned and vacant commercial buildings not included in official vacancy or abandonment figures. It highlights the insufficiency of data on the extent of vacancy and abandonment and the absence of penalties for owners.

The proposed subsidy for homebuyers who buy vacant or abandoned homes is welcome, but without providing an incentive or forcing homeowners to sell or rent their property, the problem of vacancy and abandonment will continue.

The subsidy could actually drive up prices for the limited supply of abandoned inventory for sale.

Without additional measures, homeowners, not buyers, will benefit.

The impact of vacant housing assistance will also depend on an individual or couple’s ability to secure a mortgage (will banks lend for these more complex home purchases?) The costs (which may be very important depending on the level of remediation work required).

Grant recipients are likely to be limited to those with higher incomes. But in the end, it all depends on the willingness of the owner of the vacant, abandoned property to sell. More is needed if we are to truly unleash the potential of vacant and abandoned properties.

Abandoned houses in St Mary’s Park, Limerick.

So far, there has been little political will at the government level to tackle this problem. Planning, coordination and ultimately funding and implementation have been inadequate. Whether local authorities want to address it or not, there has been no real push and few signs of sufficient funding and initiatives to address it.

Fortunately, that seems to be changing. Increased public awareness demands action to turn abandoned and vacant properties into housing, especially with half a million young adults living in their parents’ homes, and the latest homelessness figures showing 2,548 children homeless. shelter with their families, an increase of 20% in just five months. There is a popular #DerelictIreland hashtag on Twitter where people across the country post pictures of abandoned buildings in places like Cork, Kildare, Sligo and Drogheda.

The government seems to be responding, at least in terms of policy awareness. In December, Fine Gael launched a new policy document specifically dedicated to vacant housing and renewal.

However, in order to systemically tackle the problem and avoid the scenarios of buyers with a new grant stolen by owners, the state must act decisively and quickly.

First, to discourage the holding of vacant property, effectively forcing owners to sell. Second, engage in the forced purchase and sale of tens of thousands of vacant and abandoned properties, and third, fund the renovation of that property to become a large supply of affordable housing.

An effective vacant and abandoned property tax is needed to force the sale of property by making it financially unsustainable to leave a property vacant and abandoned.

The vacant property tax currently under discussion should be extended to include all properties, without exception, from abandoned homes to commercial properties as well.

The tax should be 10% of the market value. He must be punitive for forcing either the use of the property or its sale. Revenue commissioners should collect the tax and increase it as the vacancy period lengthens.

The tax is expected to create an influx of vacant and abandoned housing into the market to significantly increase the supply of properties for homebuyers and help lower housing prices.

The tax has the potential to raise up to € 1 billion per year, based on a conservative estimate of 100,000 vacant and abandoned properties, valued at an average value of € 100,000 per property. These collected revenues could be allocated to a fund for a new public housing construction and renovation company to buy properties, renovate and renovate them, and then sell them at truly affordable rates to home buyers and housing associations. for social and rental housing. This would increase the government’s investment in housing construction by 50%.

The risk and cost of buying vacant and abandoned properties cannot be left to middle-income homebuyers alone.

The current targets of local authorities to purchase only 2,500 vacant homes over the next five years are paltry.

The state has the funds to buy on a large scale and then sell the homes at truly affordable prices to homebuyers. In addition to purchase orders, which can be expensive and cumbersome, the state should use purchase orders set at 50% below market value. A state-owned construction and renovation company would provide significant building capacity to undertake the renovation and renovation, at reasonable costs to homebuyers.

Good coordination between government departments and local authorities is needed to solve this problem, with financial support for purchase and renovation. It must be part of the renovation program. Ensuring that abandoned and vacant properties are used as carbon-free homes is a key way to ensure that the supply of new homes is climate proof.

Rory Hearne is Assistant Professor in the Social Policy Department of Applied Social Studies at Maynooth University
Rory Hearne is Assistant Professor in the Social Policy Department of Applied Social Studies at Maynooth University

The intention of the Ministry of Housing to set up a vacancy team within the Ministry of Housing is excellent, but if local authorities lack the resources to purchase and renovate the stock, they will be limited in what they can accomplish.

Frank O’Connor and Jude Sherry pointed out in this journal that a much more strategic and holistic approach is needed to end abandonment and bring vacations back to acceptable levels. They offer innovative measures such as “Mean while use” and custody orders.

Ali Harvey of the Heritage Council points out that the collaborative city center health check program, which advocated for a first city center policy in 2019, demonstrates what can be achieved through collaboration between the public, private and public sectors. civic.

The housing shortage in this country is an artificial shortage. There is an untapped supply of housing accumulated by landowners, which leaves it vacant or abandoned. Political half-measures will not be enough, it is time to act. Owners of abandoned and vacant properties can no longer be allowed to leave them unused. Use it or lose it.

Rory Hearne is Assistant Professor in the Social Policy Department of Applied Social Studies at Maynooth University