Unfinished houses in so-called ghost estates across Ireland may be used as social housing in the future.Minister for Housing and Planning Willie Penrose today spoke of his intention to look at sourcing social housing from the “vacant and unfinished properties that litter the country”.
The idea is still only at a “suggestion stage” but the Minister already chairs a committee that deals with the legacy of such ghost estates, a spokesman for the Department told TheJournal.ie.
“It is definitely one option being looked at,” he said.
However, it is not as simple as just providing the bricks-and-mortar.
“Social housing is about more than finding and securing units. The houses have to be appropriate and part of sustainable developments in suitable areas,” explained the spokesman.
There is also the fact that a lot of the unfinished estates are still privately owned.
The next step in the “long process” is for local authorities to sit down with the main stakeholders, including banks, the developers and, in some cases, NAMA, to come up with site resolution plans.
Health and safety issues
However, there are some “developer-abandoned” houses – already identified by the Department of the Environment – that local authorities have started working on.
In these cases, funding has been provided to address health and safety issues and make the sites safe.
“One suggestion is for local authorities to finish these developments and then use some of the units for social housing.
“But if we are to use the taxpayers’ money for something like that, it would have to prove worthwhile,” added the spokesman.
“Site resolution plans will have to be put in place by local authorities and other major players when they decide how to deal with such properties,” concluded the spokesman.
A report released by the Housing Agency today showed that there has been a 75 per cent increase in the need for social housing support in 2011. As of March 31, there were 98,318 households in need.
The Government has committed to providing as many families as possible with accommodation over the next three years.
“Despite the fact that the number of households who are in receipt of rental assistance from the state, either in social housing or through rent supplement, is the highest ever, the increase in the net need figures indicates that much more must be done,” said Minister Penrose.
“There is no single solution,” he added. “The State must look to all sources of supply, in particular the vacant and unfinished properties that litter the country. It must work with a range of public, private, voluntary and co-operative housing bodies, and it must look to investment from the financial institutions as well as the Exchequer.””
A long-term leasing initiative is already in place to help increase the availability of social housing but the Minister said that one of his priorities for 2012 is to “address the overhang in the housing market, especially from unfinished estates”.
Earlier this month, the Irish Times reported that there has been an increase in the number of ghost estates across the country. In research due to be published next month, the Housing Agency will detail a total of 2,881 unoccupied developments.
Last year, the agency said there were 2,846 incomplete housing developments across the country.
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