Surveyors scour land to inspect old buildings that can be adapted for housing

Wayne O'Connor

The Housing Agency is to hire consultants to advise local authorities whether commercial properties, large homes and hospitality buildings such as hotels and B&Bs can be used for social housing.

The state agency estimates that housing experts, builders and surveyors will inspect about 60 buildings nationwide every year and offer advice on their suitability prior to any being purchased.

This represents a departure from previous processes, where building surveyors would be hired on a case-by-case basis to assess specific properties. It also demonstrates how councils are struggling to cope with the demand for housing.

The surveyors will be tasked with making recommendations to the Housing Agency on the suitability of commercial buildings for repurposing as homes.

There is no indication of how many people will be housed as part of the plans, or how many homes will be acquired — but the focus will be on acquiring large homes to house families, and on buildings that can be renovated and repurposed as homes.

The Housing Agency works with the Department of Housing, local councils and approved housing bodies to deliver homes and housing services.

However, with housing supply limited, councils and housing bodies are increasingly finding it difficult to cope with huge housing demand.

The agency said it will spend an estimated €500,000 per year on surveyors to examine large properties.

Existing homes inspected under the plan will have five bedrooms or more. Surveyors will make an “overall recommendation on the suitability of the property for acquisition and/or future use for housing”.

A spokeswoman said the Housing Agency will receive a detailed condition survey of the buildings and review of all aspects of each property.

“This will assist the Housing Agency and its stakeholders to better understand the suitability of the property for acquisition and/or future use for housing,” she added.

Experts will have to note “the essential repairs identified and the expected timelines to return the property into use”.

“The ultimate suitability or repurposing options will be influenced by the survey results on each property surveyed. Because surveyors will make an ‘overall recommendation on the suitability of the property for acquisition and/or future use for the provision of housing’, not all surveyed properties will result in an acquisition,” the spokeswoman added.

Councils have come under increased pressure to source accommodation recently, with demand for homes heightened by a need to house people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.

Last month Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said local authorities had identified more than 500 vacant buildings capable of housing thousands of refugees from Ukraine.

Separate assessments are being done on these buildings, many of which include community halls, former commercial or educational buildings and religious centres.

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