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‘We can get that property back into use’


Oisín McGovern

THE founder of VacantHomes.ie is appealing to owners of vacant or derelict housing to consider putting their property back into use.
Tom Gilligan, who is Director of Services for Housing with Mayo County Council, is calling on the public to put their vacant houses back on the market to help deal with the ongoing housing shortage.
Mr Gilligan made the call as the latest figures from Daft.ie showed that there were only 46 properties available to rent in Mayo.
2016 Census figures revealed that there were 10,597 properties in the county (excluding holidays homes) out of a total housing stock of 65,921.
Speaking to The Mayo News, the senior county council official described the rental market in Mayo as ‘broken’ and ‘totally dysfunctional’.
“I’m appealing to property owners to come forward, particularly in areas where there is a housing need and we can get that property back into use,” he said.
“We really have to do something about this because there are far too many vacant homes in Mayo. It’s sinful and immortal that there’s vacant property and it’s not being used.”
Mr Gilligan said that there are schemes available to finance the refurbishment of derelict housing. These include the Repair and Leasing Scheme which allows property owners to access up to €60,000 in funding to refurbish their homes for use as social housing.

‘We have a solution’
Mr Gilligan said it is more environmentally friendly to bring vacant homes back into use than to construct new houses.
“The reality is that it takes less carbon emissions to bring a vacant home back into use,” he said.
“You have an awful lot of the key infrastructure in place like your lighting, your utilities, your ESB, your water, your telephone.
“The lines are there and are already connected to the property, besides going off building a new home. It’s a win-win-win for everyone.
“I don’t understand why people are consciously saying: ‘I’m going to leave this property vacant.’ Even if you were making a modest financial return, surely it’s better than nothing? Surely it’s better than having a property there that’s becoming a health and safety issue, that’s becoming an eyesore, that’s having an impact on the mental health of the neighbours around you. I think it’s scandalous. I really do,” he added.
“If we had more homes, it would reduce the rental and sales costs and give people a better choice as to the type of home they live in.
“I genuinely think we have a solution here in Mayo if property owners would come to us.
“If I’m making a plea to people, it’s that vacant homeowners come forward and take more responsibility, take more ownership, step up to the plate and help people out.”
VacantHomes.ie encourages property owners them to bring housing back into use by registering vacant properties and helping identify their owners, was recently nominated for the 2021 Innovation in Politics Award.
The website was nominated alongside projects from other European countries in the ‘Quality of Life Category’.
Since its inception, VacantHomes.ie has logged 5,500 vacant properties nationwide.
“It just goes to show how the web portal has been such a success not just nationally but outside of Ireland. I’m very proud of that,” Mr Gilligan said.
Yesterday (Monday), research from money.co.uk revealed that Ireland has the 10th highest rate of vacant properties in the entire world.
It found that 9.1 per cent of the State’s housing stock, equating to 183,312 units, was classified as vacant.