Independent TD for Clare, Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne has again highlighted the on-going issue of vacant housing, and shortage of new builds in Ireland generally, though particularly as they relate to Clare.
According to her, and the statistics are indeed shocking, ‘there are 167,000 vacant homes and 160, 000 people without homes nationally, with many people unable to avail of the Help to Buy scheme as it applies to new-builds’. This is a particularly difficult situation for first-time buyers to be placed in, Deputy Wynne noting how it just ‘adds to the level of frustration experienced by those unable to get on the property ladder as a consequence’; and this has been articulated to her through constituents who have sought her advocacy. It is her strong view that those wishing to purchase vacant homes ‘should be eligible for the same scheme as those first-time purchasers of new homes’.
It is interesting to note that, the Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers (IPAV) does provide a resource outlining the vacancy levels across Ireland, based on Census 2022 figures. According to the preliminary figures from Census 2022, shockingly there are ‘166,752 vacant homes, a drop of 9% from 2016 (183,312) and there is a change of 16,500 (-9%). In further statistics she posited that, ‘in the UK there are approximate 25 million homes and a 0.9% rate. Putting this into context of Ireland and Clare she noted that, whilst the: ‘Irish rate of vacancy stands at 8%, in Clare the rate of vacancy is 9.2%’. That places Clare well above the National Average which is hugely concerning.
Deputy Wynne contented that it ought to be a matter of priority for a national database to be created outlining the full situation with vacant properties, both regionally and nationally. Such a database must, she said, should ‘include an inventory of the current situation with vacant properties and allow for us to track the progress on a continuous basis. The modus-operandi of such a database would be to bring back into use much needed properties’ and to revitalise the community in the process.
Of course, she also recognised that, for the success of the database the local knowledge of the postman and local estate agents should be utilised to the fullest. ‘Those setting up such a database must draw on their strong local knowledge to their advantage’; in fact, she went so far as to say that, in her view ‘all local authorities should employ a full-time vacant properties officer’ to ensure the database’s smooth running as well as ‘creating a taskforce across various stakeholders to address issues of vacant properties’ generally.
That said, she also suggested there should be ‘realistic tax incentives introduced to encourage the revitalisation of derelict houses and shops and to bring back into use properties otherwise abandoned’. She also opined on the need for any, and all tax relief to include ‘a free or amnesty period on capital gains tax; for, not encouraging owners to sell their properties means they simply will not’. Encouragement, she reiterated, ‘is essential in the release and availability of much needed properties.
Finally, the Independent TD for Clare put forward the notion that a ‘government fund should be administered at low interest rates and should be made available to purchasers of derelict or vacant homes until the home is brought to a liveable condition and they are in a position to re-mortgage or repay the loan’. The status of availing of grants, currently is prohibitive to the extent that they ‘cannot be availed of if, initially purchasers cannot draw down mortgages to purchase the property’.
In order to alleviate the pressure on those wishing to step up on the property ladder, Deputy Wynne suggested there should be an ’introduction of a non-repayable €50,000 purchase subsidy for the first-time buyers of derelict homes to be administered as per the Help-to-Buy Scheme; along with the introduction of a non-repayable €20,000 purchase subsidy to First Time Buyers of vacant homes of more than 3 years to be administered as per the Help-to-Buy Scheme.