Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing Barry Cowen TD says a new Bill being put forward by his party in the Dáil will help refurbish thousands of vacant units in older and commercial buildings in cities and town centres.
The ‘Vacant Housing Refurbishment Bill 2017’ establishes a special planning and building control approval process in each planning authority. This will enable the expedited refurbishment of upper floors of older and commercial structures for housing. The Bill is set to be debated in the Dáil on Wednesday afternoon.
Deputy Cowen said, “It’s clear a new approach is needed to expand the supply of social, affordable and private housing. We need to refurbish vacant spaces in residential, commercial and older buildings to achieve this.
“Census 2016 revealed that almost 260,000 homes are vacant across the country. There are thousands of square feet of liveable space in ‘above the shop’ units which, as anyone who walks around a city or town in Ireland can clearly see, exist in very large numbers.
“Dublin City Council recently estimated that there are 4,000 vacant spaces above commercial units in the city with potential for use as residential dwellings. With the right policy instrument in place this could translate into over 20,000 additional residential units in a short space of time.
“Our Bill seeks to establish an expedited process for building control and planning administration in each local authority to help bring vacant properties back into use as homes. The Bill creates a ‘one stop shop’ for approving refurbishment projects which removes many of the existing administrative hurdles to re-developing vacant properties.
“The Bill also establishes a special planning and building control approval process to enable the expedited development of upper floors in older properties and commercial buildings. The current safety standards and necessity for full compliance with building regulations remains unchanged.
“’The Bill also aims to clamp down on illegal sub-divisions, over-occupancy and non-compliance with building control regulations in the rental sector especially. It does so by putting in place a new inspection system whereby refurbishment projects requiring exemptions or dispensations will have to be directly inspected by Approved Inspectors.
“All parties in the Dáil are in agreement that we are in the midst of a housing crisis. This Bill represents a genuine attempt to overcome many of the existing administrative faults which are preventing thousands of vacant properties from being brought back into use as homes. I’m calling on all TD’s to support our Bill so that we can take the necessary steps to overcome this crisis, concluded Deputy Cowen.