Leading housing charity Peter McVerry Trust wants the Government to extend a planning rule that allows vacant commercial buildings to be converted for accommodation.
A 2018 regulation known as statutory instrument 30 – (SI30) of 2018 – allowing vacant commercial buildings to be reused for housing – has helped the trust and other organisations in providing one-bedroomed apartments to their clients. However, it is due to expire at the end of this year.
Peter McVerry Trust has written to Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien asking that the Government extend SI30 for another two years so that his organisation can continue to provide more homes and help tackle vacancies.
Pat Doyle, the trust's chief executive, said the system was particularly successful in boosting the organisation's supply of one-bedroomed apartments, which the charity needed as single people were the biggest group of those who were homeless.
The organisation is working on SI30 projects across the Republic that will secure more than 50 one-bedroom apartments by the end of 2021. Peter McVerry Trust leases the vacant commercial properties from their owners for 25 years. Most owners support moves to extend the regulation’s life.
"For a number of years now we have had lots of success in tackling long-term vacant properties across Ireland, " Mr Doyle said. "Successfully reusing vacant buildings has lots of benefits. It increases supply, tackles dereliction, revives urban centres and makes sure more one-bedroom homes come on stream."
He noted that this was particularly important for Peter McVerry Trust programmes such as Housing First and its Capital Assistance Scheme for young people leaving State care.
"This week alone we have secured approval in Cork City for a further 10 one-bedroom apartments across two properties in the city centre as a result of SI30," Mr Doyle said.
He added that Peter McVerry Trust was working with the properties’ owners to secure 25-year leases on the buildings, while ultimately allowed it take people out of homelessness.
“This will allow for projects delayed as a result of Covid-19 to be delivered, and for new opportunities that are coming on stream to be explored and secured by local authorities and approved housing bodies,” said Mr Doyle.
To qualify for SI30 buildings must be vacant for two years. The provision applies to properties with current commercial use, including shops, offices, financial and professional services, hotels, guest houses or hostels.