A few years ago in Norway I spoke with a person who had renovated a very old building, her ethos was “to use what we have, where we have it”. Ever since I was elected this maxim has been to the front of my interest in tackling property dereliction and vacancy, something which has been described as a moral crime, and in light of the numbers of people in need of housing it’s hard not to disagree with that.
Daragh O Brien TD, the Fianna Fail Minister at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has put a number of measures in place that make it more attractive for owners of these derelict or vacant properties to either renovate them or sell them on, and considerable effort by local elected representatives has gone in to pushing for these schemes to be expanded and modified to take into account the gaps that were becoming apparent in the system. It is to the credit of the Minister and the Department that these suggestions have been taken on board and the scheme has been amended with considerable alacrity. The Croi Conaithe scheme started as being eligible only in towns and villages, it has since been expanded to include rural properties. It was also only for owner occupiers on a permanent residential basis, it has since been modified to include long term rentals/tenancy. So the carrot is most definitely there… but it’s just as important that the stick is seen to be wielded as well. Clare Co Co, with funding from national Government, have put together a small but very active team to chase up the owners of many of these properties, and while the process is unwieldy and time consuming, not to mention costly, in terms of both financial and Human Resources, they are really starting to get positive results.
Local authorities come in for a lot of criticism, and in many cases with some justification, but we do have to acknowledge when they get it right. Great article here from The Examiner telling the story of the positive impact of this change in how dereliction is being tackled by Clare County Council.
In my view, the most sustainable, fastest and most efficient way of bringing housing stock on stream is to use what we have, where we have it.