Pro-active approach necessary to tackle scandal of vacant homes- Eoin Ó Broin TD
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD, welcoming further indication that the Government intends to introduce a vacant homes tax, has called on the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to issue guidance to local authorities on adopting a proactive approach to getting vacant homes back into use.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Sinn Féin fully supports the introduction of a vacant homes tax for those people who are wilfully and speculatively sitting on empty homes. Such a tax should be accompanied by a range of incentives to assist vacant home owners to bring their units back into social and affordable use.
"However, strong incentives and punishments will not on their own reduce the level of vacancy. What is needed is a focused pro active approach from Local Authorities.
“Local authorities need to immediately appoint full time vacant homes officers. These officers would be tasked with compiling a vacant homes register and with actively engaging with owners of vacant homes to encourage them to bring their properties back into use.
“Having local authority staff on the ground engaging with property owners and maintaining a vacant homes register will have the double effect of promoting government schemes already rolled out for this purpose and of identifying vacant properties that would be exempt from such a tax due to probate issues or being in the Fair Deal scheme.
"If Local Authorities need more staff to undertake this work then it should be provided as a matter of urgency.
“The government already has number of schemes in place that can be expanded in order to target the return of a greater number of units into active use. For example the Buy and Renew scheme should be the main mechanism for delivering vacant stock back into active social housing use.
“Similarly the repair and lease scheme should be amended with a focus on delivering affordable rental homes for those whose income is above the threshold to be eligible for social housing.
“The Department of Housing in conjunction with Local Authorities needs to adopt a proactive approach. while it is disappointing that a year into the Government housing action plan we have yet to see its Vacant Homes Strategy.
"We cannot wait until it is launched in the Autumn. Preparatory work needs to be undertaken now to ensure that the maximum number of vacant homes are brought back into use in the shortest possible time frame."