The Tipp TD wants to see vacant and derelict propetties being brought back into use

Lowry: Think outside the box to tackle housing crisis

Tipp TD Michael Lowry believes we need to think outside the box when tackling the ongoing housing crisis.

He said: “There are options. There are solutions. They must be put in place.”

Deputy Lowry wants to see vacant and derelict propetties being brought back into use to ease the ongoing housing crisis. He was addressing the Dáil during a Regional Group motion on vacant housing on Wednes-day.

“It has been more than 30 years since homeownership peaked in Ireland. In 1991 80% of Irish people were homeowners, while private rental accounted for 8% and social rental stood at 10%. At that time there were 2,700 people registered as homeless in this country. The Ireland of today is vastly different to Ireland of 1991.There are more than 9,000 classified as homeless. 67% of Irish people are homeowners.

“While across Europe homeownership rates are in-creasing, in Ireland they are falling. The age at which people apply for their first mortgage is increasing, largely due to the fact that the cost of renting is extortionate and the ability to save towards the cost of buy-ing is diminishing more and more every year.

“Added to the fact that the cost of buying a home has soared by an average of 14.1% across the country, is that the supply of affordable homes available for purchase is historically low. The availability of rental properties is sparse, which leads to frightening rents being demanded.

“Government has set a target to promote the construction of up to 400,000 homes over the next decade.

This averages 35,000 homes per year. It is worth noting that this figure was announced before the need was identified to provide 35,000 permanent homes for Ukrainian refugees who have been forced to take up residence in Ireland. The Governments figures are ambitious. But are they even close to being realistic?

“According to 20 of the country’s top developers the figures are far from realistic. In fact, their target is closer to 125,000 homes over the coming 10 years, which is a far cry from Government’s aspirations. The reason is that there is not enough land zoned across the country for residential building. Developers are describing the unavailability of fully-serviced land for house building as a crisis. Added to the spiralling cost of building materials, this adds yet another layer of cri-sis to the ever-escalating housing calamity.

“They have expressed a view that they will run out of land in the next two to three years. One leading devel-oper has stated publicly that they may have to stop building houses completely for at least six years.

“The solution to the crisis must lie, to a significant ex-tent, in investing in the renovating of vacant properties. Every city, town and village in the country has a number of vacant properties that could be renovated and refurbished to become family homes.

“Across Ireland at the present time there are more than 90,000 vacant properties. In Tipperary alone, it is estimated there are up to 3,000 empty dwellings lo-cated across both urban and rural areas.

“There needs to be a time limit introduced as to how long a property can be left in limbo at a time when people across this country are crying out for homes. This should be coupled with low interest loans for homebuyers to make taking on a renovation project more appealing. This is a vital incentive. Without addressing this aspect of bringing vacant houses back in-to use, the idea will die before it ever has a chance to prove its worth.

“If the focus was switched away from acquiring high-cost serviced land to provide new build homes on the outskirts of cities, towns and villages, it would have multiple positive impacts. Re-purposing vacant houses in towns would help to revitalise town centres.

“Apart from the obvious bonus of making them more attractive, population growth invariable leads to increased demand for service. These services, such as shops, schools and high-speed broadband, not only meet the needs of newcomers to the community, but also im-prove day to day life for everyone in the area.

“Rather than focusing attention on the almost impossible task of acquiring serviced land for new developments, incentives should be put in place for builders and tradesmen to turn vacant properties into family homes. This, in turn, creates employment in the building sector.”