Green TD for Wicklow Steven Matthews last week helped launch a report on derelict and vacant properties, the actions of which would return hundreds of properties in Wicklow back to housing stock. The report by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, which was launched in Leinster House outlines a series of recommendations regarding the need to amend existing Government ‘Croí Cónaithe’ grant supports to bring as many vacant or derelict properties as possible back into residential use. This follows a series of meetings on this issue in the Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Chaired by Deputy Matthews and a Bill sponsored by the Deputy that seeks to support individuals and families in making these properties into homes.
Discussing the report, Deputy Matthews said:
“Tackling vacancy and dereliction is one of my priorities as TD for Wicklow. While there are huge steps forward being taken in terms of building new homes, there is a large potential stock of housing that lies empty or derelict in every town and village in Ireland that could be brought back to use in a much faster, cheaper and environmentally conscious way than a new build.
“If you walk through any town or village in Wicklow, you will find boarded up properties that were once family homes. It’s not only a serious blight on the streetscape but a huge waste of potentially viable homes that already have the necessary related services like street lighting, shops, nearby schools, public transport options and other key infrastructure.
“What the report from SCSI outlines is that the Government supports under the Croí Cónaithe scheme which have been useful and in part effective to date, need to be amended to allow for greater flexibility to reflect the unique nature of bringing derelict buildings back into use. This includes options to go above the existing €50,000 grant cap for more challenging projects and an option to conduct a feasibility study to assess the viability of bringing a particular building back to use. There were also important recommendations in relation to the need to review existing building regulations and calls for increased options from banks and other lenders to accommodate for renovation projects for residential use.
“I was delighted to be in a position to help launch the report and I look forward to working with the Minister for Housing on implementing many of the recommendations. If we are serious about bringing vacant and derelict units back into the housing stock, we need to be flexible in how we support people to do so. If anybody is considering taking on a renovation of a derelict or vacant property, I would be more than happy to offer them advice in relation to planning matters and grant opportunities, concluded Deputy Matthews.