Question 193: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the plans in place to effectively deal with the vacant housing units throughout the country and in particular in County Kildare where 8% of units are currently vacant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [Ref. Number 19392/11]
Response from Minister Willie Penrose (Department of Environment, Community and Local Government): 7th July 2011
The overhang in housing stock is a cause for concern for all stakeholders in the construction and housing sector. From my own point of view as Minister for Housing and Planning it also presents some opportunities.
In recent years the social housing provision model has switched from predominance on build and acquisition to the rental accommodation scheme and leasing of units. These initiatives have delivered housing units in a more flexible and speedy manner than before, including through the use of suitable vacant private residential stock.
I signalled in my recent policy framework the need to maximise our housing provision by means of these tools. The allocation for the current year stands at €125 million for RAS and €23.5 million for leasing. Together, these two delivery modes are expected to yield half of the social housing capacity delivered in 2011.
My Department has been engaged in ongoing discussions with NAMA with a view to harnessing a social dividend in the form of the acquisition or leasing of stock subject to NAMA control. I hope to announce soon the first fruits of that work, with the acquisition of premium new accommodation for social housing purposes.
Additionally, I recently established the National Co-ordination Committee in respect of Unfinished Housing Developments, comprised of representatives from NAMA, the banking, construction and housing sectors as well as the local authorities and the Department. Its second meeting takes place next week. I expect this close collaboration of all interested parties to yield imaginative and constructive proposals for the further absorption of surplus housing stock.