Addressing vacancy and combating dereliction is essential to ensure the vibrancy and viability of Irish towns and cities and is a key component of the Government’s housing plan, Housing for All, writes Lisa Ledwidge, Senior Staff Officer at The Housing Agency.
Despite high housing need, many Irish cities, towns, and villages contain vacant buildings, which, if brought back into use, could provide homes and breathe life back into communities. Pathway 4 of Housing for All outlines several schemes and proposals to address vacancy such as the Town Centre First policy and the Croí Cónaithe (Towns) fund.
Local authority-led compulsory purchase order scheme
Pathway 4 also provides for the introduction of a new local authority-led programme for the compulsory acquisition of vacant properties. This sets local authorities the objective of acquiring at least 2,500 vacant units by 2026 and presenting them to the market for onward sale.
The role of the Housing Agency
To support this compulsory purchase order (CPO) programme, The Housing Agency has established a central advisory service to provide local authorities with support and step-by-step guidance in compulsorily acquiring vacant properties.
In addition, The Housing Agency has developed a CPO guidance document for local authorities. This contains downloadable CPO process templates, frequently asked questions (FAQs) and a summary of the legislation.
As well as providing an advisory service, The Housing Agency offers:
• an information gathering service relating to title searches;
• assistance with the location of properties;
• negotiation on third party charges; and
• assistance with the population of documents.
Housing for All proposes that properties compulsorily acquired will be sold on the open market for residential purposes. The Law Reform Commission is continuing to progress the consolidation and reform of compulsory purchase order law. Further guidance relating to the resale of compulsorily acquired properties will be developed in due course.
As the CPO programme evolves, The Housing Agency will provide support and build confidence and knowledge among vacant homes officers (VHOs) within local authorities.
The Housing Agency has already set up the Vacant Homes Officers’ Network. At regular meetings attendees hear from legal and property experts and have the opportunity to exchange experiences and showcase examples of good practice. As the CPO programme develops, The Housing Agency looks forward to supporting its continued implementation.
Lisa Ledwidge is a Senior Staff Officer in The Housing Agency where she is responsible for the Property Optimisation Unit (POU) within local authority services which includes advice and support on Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO’s), Repair and Lease and Buy and Renew schemes.