Tom Gilligan, instigator of the website VacantHomes.ie meeting Minister Eoghan Murphy TD
Mullies native, Tom Gilligan, instigator of the website VacantHomes.ie, the web portal initiated by the Mayo County Council on behalf of the local government sector, as on online resource for the public to anonymously log possible vacant properties, is urging owners of vacant homes to bring their properties back into use, in order to increase the supply of housing.
Figures just released indicate that there were just 2,700 properties available to rent nationwide on Daft.ie, the lowest ever figure for stock on the market.
Tom who hails from Mullies on the Kinlough road outside Manorhamilton explains this low supply of properties is a factor in helping rents to rise all across the country which is pricing potential tenants out of the rental market. “It’s a case of supply and demand and the current rental market is starved of much needed housing”, says Gilligan.
“The situation as it currently stands is unsustainable. We need more properties to come on stream and one way this can happen is for owners of vacant properties to release the potential of their empty residence and bring the property back into use.
“Utilising existing properties is potentially a quicker and more efficient way to get supply back on track”, maintains Gilligan.
There are a variety of reasons why properties are vacant such as lack of available finance for renovations, the owner may be in a nursing home or in the care of a relative, the estate may be in probate or the owner may not be motivated enough to bring the unit back in to use.
While it is accepted that reactivating vacant homes alone will not solve the housing crisis, their potential, says Gilligan, cannot be ignored. “There are vacant homes right across the country and the public are helping us to identify their location and condition.
“The vast majority of properties logged thus far, on the vacanthomes.ie portal are in the provinces of Munster and Leinster, where the demand for housing is most acute.
“This information is being used by vacant home officers in each local authority in order to try to contact the owner and assist them in getting the property back into use. This is important work and needs to continue,” maintains Gilligan.
There are a number of government schemes available that can assist property owners in getting their unit into use.
The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) is available where a property requires repairs to bring it up to required standard for rented properties. The RLS will pay for the repairs up-front in return for the property being made available to be used as social housing for a period of at least five years under either a direct lease or Rental Availability Arrangement with the local authority. The maximum funding available is €40,000, inclusive of VAT.
Where the property is a former bedsit being brought back into line with the standards for rented houses, funding of up to €50,000, inclusive of VAT, is available.
The Buy and Renew Scheme particularly focuses on older vacant homes to help tackle the problem of dereliction and improve the appearance of the community. It’s an initiative that compliments the Repair and Leasing Scheme and it provides the option for suitable properties to be bought rather than leased, if that is what the vacant home owner prefers.
Another scheme, the Long Term Leasing Initiative, allows owners of vacant properties that are in good condition to lease their properties to local authorities.
While these schemes are suitable for social housing, Gilligan feels that a rising tide lifts all boats. “The more properties we get back into use, the greater chance we have in helping to create and maintain a properly functioning housing market. The lack of housing and in particular good quality housing is impacting on the quality of life on large sections of our society.
“I want to encourage property owners that have a vacant property to come forward and help put an end to the current housing and homelessness crisis in this country.
“Apart from providing much needed housing bringing vacant homes back into use helps rejuvenate areas that are in decline. It’s a no-brainer and a win-win for everyone.”