Number of vacant and derelict homes brought back into use for social housing fell last year

According to the 2022 census there are 163,433 vacant homes in Ireland, of which 48,000 have been empty since 2016

The number of vacant and derelict homes brought back into use last year for social housing by local authorities under a Government scheme was less than half the number three years previous, new figures show.

The Buy and Renew Scheme, which began in 2016, supports local authorities in purchasing and renewing homes in need of repair and making them available for social housing use. It is up to each local authority to determine a property’s suitability for social housing.

New figures from the Department of Housing show there were 57 units brought back into use under the scheme last year. The number has decreased significantly since its peak in 2018, according to the data, which was released in response to a parliamentary question from Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan.

In 2018 a total of 268 units were brought back into use, falling to 200 the following year, before decreasing further to 118 in 2020. In 2021 the figure dropped to 57, before rising to 74 in 2022, and falling back to 57 again last year.


According to the 2022 census, there are 163,433 vacant homes in Ireland, of which 48,000 have been empty since 2016.

The Government’s latest housing plan, Housing for All, has a target of purchasing 2,500 vacant units by 2026. The total number brought into use through the scheme up to the end of 2023 is 923.

Pressure on the Coalition to resolve the housing crisis has intensified as the number of people living in homelessness continues to reach record levels. As of March 2024, a total of 13,866 people were accessing emergency accommodation in Ireland.

Mr O’Callaghan said the number of homes being provided through the scheme has “fallen off a cliff since this Government took office”.

“Bringing empty homes back into use can be the fastest, most cost effective and environmentally-friendly way to deliver desperately needed social homes,” he said. “Empty and decaying buildings blight our communities while homelessness has reached record levels.”

He added: “Ramping up the Buy and Renew Scheme should be a win-win – standing by while it slowly peters out is inexcusable.”

A spokesman for the Department of Housing said addressing vacancy was a “key priority for this Government”, adding that there are a “range of schemes and supports in place to increase the number of vacant and derelict properties being brought back into use”.

“Alongside the acquisition and upgrade as new social homes of existing properties in need of refurbishment, in recent years an increasing number of local authorities and AHBs (approved housing bodies) are tackling more substantial projects involving vacant and derelict properties. This allows for local authorities to tackle dereliction where substantial construction work is involved and to produce further new social homes,” he said.

“A key initiative to address vacancy and dereliction has been the introduction of the vacant property refurbishment grant under the Croí Cónaithe Towns Fund. From May 2023, a grant of up to €50,000 is available to support the refurbishment of a vacant property bringing it back into use as a home.”

The spokesman said that as of March 31st, more than 7,366 applications for the grant had been received.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times