Government okays action to force empty homes’ sale

by Emma Nolan
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THE owners of empty homes can now be forced by the Government to sell them or rent them.
Attorney General Seamus Woulfe has told government ministers that compulsory purchase order (CPO) powers can be used to force the owners of more than 180,000 vacant homes to sell or rent their properties.
The new law will see local authorities have the power over homes that have been vacant for more than 12 months.
Dublin City Council has used CPOs to acquire seven derelict properties so far this year, and is in the process of acquiring eight more. Six of the properties are being refurbished to be used for social housing, while the seventh was sold at auction.
While it is understood that many owners of empty homes will be concerned by this new law, The Sunday Independent reported that a government source has said they hope that the threat of CPOs will be enough to encourage property owners to refurbish and rent or sell their vacant properties. If a CPO is made on a property, the owner will be entitled to the market value of the property.
The Peter McVerry Trust welcomed the news, saying that the new law will help ease the housing and homelessness crisis.
Its chief executive, Pat Doyle, said: “Peter McVerry Trust believes that a scaling up of CPO programmes in each local authority can play a significant role in alleviating the housing and homeless crisis.
“We have tens of thousands of empty homes spread across our cities and towns and we need to get them back into use quickly.
“We have logged and reviewed over 600 empty properties since late June in Dublin, Kildare and Limerick, but of that, only 36 units are in our pipeline for re-use. In the vast majority of cases, when an owner replies to our correspondence, they reject the financial packages available to them. In the middle of a housing and homeless crisis, this is incredibly frustrating and intolerable.
“The response and clarification from the Attorney General on the use of CPO powers is therefore very welcome and timely. We need to see local authorities using their CPO powers to maximum effect as one core element of easing the housing crisis.”
A Dublin City Council spokesperson told The Gazette: “Dublin City Council will implement the recommendations contained in the [Government’s Vacant Homes] Strategy to address the issue of vacant homes.
“The eradication of dereliction in the city is a key priority for the Council; to achieve this objective, and to ensure that properties are redeveloped and returned to active use, the council does exercise its legislative powers under the Derelict Sites Act, 1990 to acquire sites on the Derelict Sites Register (Section 14 of the 1990 Act).
“It will only do so as a last resort in circumstances where all efforts to secure the carrying out of improvement works by property owners have been exhausted.
“The council is pursuing an ongoing acquisition strategy and in July it published a Notice of Intention to acquire compulsorily a further eight properties. In determining what sites to acquire, the Derelict Sites section prioritises those properties which can be most readily reinstated to active residential use.”

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