Housing crisis | 

Sinn Féin TD says level of vacant homes in Dublin 'nothing short of a crime'

There have been calls from housing campaigners to use CPOs on vacant homes to turn them over for social housing
SF’s Thomas Gould hit out

SF’s Thomas Gould hit out

Gabija Gataveckaite 

Dublin City Council has not looked at issuing any compulsory purchase orders for vacant homes, TDs and Senators have been told.

Representatives from the authority told the Oireachtas Housing Committee they have instead focused their efforts on derelict homes.

A compulsory purchase order (CPO) allows councils to buy land or property without the owner's consent.

There have been calls from housing campaigners to use CPOs on vacant homes to turn them over for social housing.

"We haven't looked to compulsory purchase individual vacant homes," council executive manager Paul Clegg said.

"The powers of a CPO are set out in legislation and there has to be a clear purpose. So we haven't identified individual homes that we are going to CPO.

"We have used compulsory powers for derelict houses, to back them into the social housing stock. We haven't looked at compulsory purchasing vacant residential homes."

He said one of the issues is identifying what qualifies as a "vacant available home".

Mr Clegg said one reason CPOs are not used often is they are expensive, adding that "all things going well" a CPO can be put in place within 18 months.

There are 75 derelict sites on the derelict site register, with another 400 which the council monitors. The council said the aim is not to get sites on to the register.

Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould said vacant homes were a "scandal" and the level of such homes in Dublin was "nothing short of a crime". He said his own Cork north-central constituency was "blighted" with dereliction and vacancy. "It's not an inner-city problem, it's in every town, village and area and it's being allowed to happen," he said.

In 2017, Dublin City Council conducted a "street survey" test to find vacant homes, which found a total of 213 potentially vacant homes. However, only 49 were confirmed to be empty by neighbours and 16 were vacant for a long time.

Fine Gael Senator John Cummins said the council's statistics were "not credible" and said he had heard "a lot of excuses".

"It seems to be excuse after excuse. Government can only come up with policy interventions. We can't do this on our own. We need local authorities to deliver under the schemes that are there," he said.

The vacant site levy has been branded a failure by Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins, who said the current levy is "quite burdensome" to enact.

"Ultimately what we're now doing is revamping that, we're now changing it into the zoned land tax which is going to be coming into effect next year."

Around €12m is owed to councils in vacant site levies. A lack of staff and poor interpretation of legislation are being blamed.

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