Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing Barry Cowen TD says the Government needs to be much more proactive in its effort to bring vacant homes back into use.

Deputy Cowen made the comments after Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy took to the airwaves to discuss the establishment of an Empty Homes Unit within the Department of Housing.

Deputy Cowen said, “It’s disappointing to hear Minister Murphy take to the airwaves to discuss the need to bring vacant homes back into use without actually publishing the Government’s Vacant Homes Strategy. The issue of vacant homes should be at the top of the Government agenda. It’s astonishing that we are still waiting for a strategy to deal with this issue.

“The decision to appoint Vacant Home Officers at local authority level is a positive development, but these should have been in place a year ago. These officers will make an impact in certain areas. However they are unlikely to make much of a difference in areas of high demand, especially Dublin, as Census 2016 has demonstrated that vacancy rates are relatively low in these areas.

“Fianna Fáil will bring forward the Vacant Housing Refurbishment Bill 2017 in the autumn which will comprehensively address the causes of long term housing vacancies. This will include measures to facilitate the refurbishment of ‘above shop units’ to bring thousands of square feet of liveable space back into use for housing. It’s unacceptable that living space in city centres remains unused at a time of a national housing crisis.

“Fundamentally the housing crisis can only be tackled long term by building more homes in areas where people want to live. The Government needs to deliver on an ambitious social and affordable housing programme. The progress to date has been slow and people right across the country are suffering as a result. The Government will miss its own targets unless the current pace of delivery improves significantly in the months ahead.”