A 20% increase in funding for the Vacant Homes Officer (VHO) in Waterford City and County Council will ensure even further progress can be made on tackling vacant buildings across Waterford to transform them into new homes, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Since 2018, the Department of Housing has provided funding to each local authority of €50,000 per annum to support the work of a Vacant Homes Office including the funding of VHO posts. Given the enhanced focus on tackling vacancy in the housing stock, the funding for VHOs will increase by 20% to €60,000.
Senator Cummins said “While Waterford has one of the lowest vacancy rates and number of derelict properties in the country at 2.8% and 1.4% respectively, based on the latest data by GeoDirectory, we can always do more. The Repair and Lease scheme has been instrumental in bringing 122 housing units back into productive use, while Waterford City and County Council has also activated 50 housing units through the Buy & Renew Scheme.
He added, “While all local authorities already have VHOs in place, many are part-time roles and this 20% increase in funding will ensure the role is transitioned to a full-time position. In Waterford we have a full-time vacant homes officer, along with a can do attitude and a partnership approach which is having a tangible impact on repurposing idle and empty buildings across Waterford.
“Seeing buildings and homes lying vacant in our communities goes against the grain when we know there are so many young people, families and individuals in need of affordable and quality housing. Despite new home commencements in Waterford having increased by 31% last year, supply is a massive challenge and that is why we need to use every tool at our disposal, most especially existing structures to provide homes.
“Housing For All has given an enhanced commitment to recognising the opportunity within vacant homes by increasing funding for measures such as CPO’s, Buy & Renew and the Repair & Lease schemes. Government has also adopted a proposal I put forward which will enable additional vacant and derelict properties such as former pubs to be turned into homes without the requirement for planning permission.
Speaking on the announcement, Minister Peter Burke said, “Our Local Authorities are best placed to identify vacant and derelict properties within their jurisdiction. The Vacant Homes Officers will be tasked with completing a new programme for Compulsory Purchase (CPO) of vacant housing for resale on the open market for residential purposes.
“The Government are also planning to bring in a new Vacant Property Tax, and we are currently awaiting data from Revenue which will highlight the number and location of vacant homes, as well as the reasons for this vacancy as of November 1st, 2021. This information will be assessed with other sources to inform the optimum design of a Vacant Property Tax”.