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Summary of Vacant Homes Research

By 26th March 2024 June 2nd, 2024 No Comments

Empty Homes: A Political Choice

There are more vacant houses than people who need a home in every county of Ireland. Early in 2024 Uplift members commissioned research into exactly what the problem with vacant properties and what can be done to fix it

Here is a summary of the full report written by Paul Umfreville, on behalf of Uplift.

What vacancy means

A vacant home is one which does not have anyone living in it, is not used as a holiday home and could be a dwelling that is generally fit for purpose. It might be for sale, being refurbished or an unoccupied rental property. It may be in probate, or the owner may be in a care home.

A derelict dwelling not habitable because it is being run down, boarded up, or generally in a poor state of repair.

An underused home may be an under-occupied home i.e. too large for the needs of the household living in it or a holiday home. 70% of the population live in underused houses. 

Regardless of the data collection method used, it is undeniable that Ireland has a serious vacant homes problem

In every community, people are suffering from not having a secure home. Turning vacant, derelict, or underused housing stock into homes benefits everyone and would revitalise villages and towns across Ireland. 

Government policies to tackle Vacancy

A priority of “Homes for All”, this government’s housing policy plan is to ‘address vacancy and efficient use of existing stock’. Five main policies are outlined below:

  • Repair and leasing scheme. €80,000 to be made available on the condition that the property is leased to the local authority for a minimum of 5 years.
  • Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant. Up to €50,000 available to refurbish vacant property as primary residence or to rent out. An extra 20k is available as a top up for a derelict house.
  • Local authority home loan. Government backed mortgage with fixed interest of 4% over 25 years available for first time buyers and new start applicants.
  • Rent-a-Room relief scheme. Allows people to earn up to €14,000 tax free for renting out a room in their residence.
  • Voids Programme. Focus on bringing social housing units back into use.

Every Local Authority is supposed to have a Vacant Homes Officer. A progress report on how vacant houses are being brought back into use will be published Q2 of 2024. 

Other Incentives


Living City Initiative: Tax relief to renovate & refurbish town & city centre houses & apartments Vacant homes tax: Self assessed tax on vacancy. Famously ineffective.
Emergency accommodation for Ukraine war: Local authorities rent for a min of 6 months to house people from Ukraine. Compulsory Purchase Order Activation Programme: Aims to purchase 2,500 units by 2026 and onto the market
Mayo ‘Matchmaker’ Service: links owners of vacant houses up with people hoping to buy. Short term letting regulations: supposed to register all owners of short term lets with Failte ireland [delayed]

Running into barriers

Icon of open book with text "Read the full report here."

Despite several relatively comprehensive government initiatives and policies, the results in tackling vacancies across the country are poor. The cost of renovation is huge, problems and delays accessing grants are excessive. Sentimental attachment and not seeing vacancy as a problem by some owners has been identified as a barrier. 

Poor and incomplete data is a problem. The Homes For All progress report due in Q2 2024 will hopefully shed light on the actual figures of vacant and derelict houses actually being brought back into use.

What can be done?

  • Repair & Leasing Scheme: Increase the funding that is made available for each repair and leasing project (from the current €80,000).
  • Accurate information: Improved published data by local authorities. They should report quarterly on vacant house numbers, including the percentage relative to total housing stock, and number of reactivated units. Annually, every LA should report on second homes subject to Vacant Homes Tax.
  • Reporting Vacancy: Stronger community assistance in reporting potentially vacant or empty homes to their local Vacant Homes Officer.
  • Emergency Accommodation: Expand the emergency accommodation for people fleeing war in Ukraine, to include people on the housing waiting list.
  • Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant: Increase the €50,000 funding available to match the €80,000 available in the Repair and Leasing Scheme.
  • Role of investors: Explore potential for investors e.g. extend the criteria of RLS or VPRG for the refurbishment of vacant properties with the value of the repairs repaid following the onward sale.
  • Local Authority Home Loan: Allow people who are purchasing and renovating a derelict or vacant unit to access local authorities loans
  • Rent-a-Room: Extend the rent-a-room scheme for local authority tenants to include any possible tenant, not just students.
  • Living City Initiative: Extend scheme for converting shops’ upper floors, and broaden the criteria beyond residential buildings built before 1915 or located within a designated ‘Special Regeneration Area’. Extend The Repair and Leasing Scheme or the Vacant Property Refurbishment Programme to above shop accommodation refurbishment (with regards to fire and accessibility requirements).
  • Vacant Homes Tax: Introduce a banded, sliding scale based on the number of days the  dwelling was used, with a corresponding increase in the tax to be applied the less time that the dwelling was used in the previous 12 months.
  • Housing For All review: A progress report on actions to return vacant properties into use is to be developed in Q2 of 2024.

Get Involved

Local elections are on Friday June 7th.

Councillors in every community can lead the way in turning ghost houses into homes.

But they need to know that this is what voters want.

There are tons of ways you can be involved – share a story, write a letter to your local paper, email your candidates, chip in for eye catching tactics, get your pals to register to vote, put a poster up. 

Learn More

Tell your story

Are you or a loved one paying too high rent? Worried about being evicted? Stuck and can’t leave where you are? Share your story anonymously on our community’s story map.

Email your local politicians

Email the candidates in your area. The more they hear from voters, the more notice they will take of why turning empty houses into homes needs to be their top priority.

Join the WhatsApp channel

Join the WhatsApp broadcast channel and be the first to know about what’s happening in the campaign.

Send a letter to your local paper

Write to your local paper. Politicians read the paper and will sit up and take notice when they read voters’ stories.

Find a campaign in my area

Find a local campaign in your area to turn empty houses into secure homes for all.

Chip in to fund the fight

Join the fighting fund. Chip in a few euro to fuel this people powered campaign.

Learn about real solutions

Read what councils can do to turn empty houses into homes.

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