As many as 11,000 properties a year could be brought back into use as homes under proposals to help reduce the number of derelict and vacant buildings, according to a leading architect.
Mel Reynolds was speaking at the publication by the Green Party of its proposed Vacancy, Dereliction and Regeneration Bill.
Wicklow TD Steven Matthews, who will soon introduce the Bill in the Dáil, said there are between 90,000 and 180,000 vacant homes in the country and that towns and cities are "blighted" with neglected and derelict buildings.
“We must do everything we can to ensure that as many of these buildings can be added to our housing stock and once again become homes.”
The proposed Bill would bring about an expanded derelict sites register. At present, local authorities are tasked with collecting a 7 per cent levy on derelict buildings but there are low levels of collection.
The legislation would transfer the responsibility for the tax to Revenue with a view to increasing collection and encouraging owners to bring the properties back into use.
The Bill also proposes a 3 per cent tax on the value of vacant homes , with exemptions for holiday homes or principal residences that cannot be used because the owner is in care or working abroad.
Mr Matthews said the proposed Bill would also streamline the process of getting permission to convert properties over shops into homes,which he described as “really awkward and onerous”.
Mr Reynolds said this process can result in costs of €10,000 and a waiting time of six months, compared with costs of £700 (€839) and a waiting time of 10 days in Northern Ireland. "We could cut an awful lot of that bureaucratic stuff out of the way with no diminution of standards and make it far easier for someone to get planning permission to do this."
He estimated the additional capacity would be 11,000 homes per year – 8,000 vacant premises and 3,000 units over shops – on top of the approximately 20,500 new builds currently happening.