DERELICT sites worth millions of euro are lying idle in urban areas which could be used to address the escalating housing crisis.
In Dublin there are 46 sites worth €13m on the city council's derelict sites register, while in Cork there are 28 properties with an estimated valued of €2.3m.
A detailed list of the Dublin properties, which range in value from €2m to €40,000, shows sites in prime locations around the capital are lying unused despite the housing shortfall.
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The premises are placed on the register after owners fail to carry out necessary works to bring them in line with health and safety standards.
Green Party Dublin city councillor Ciarán Cuffe claimed building owners were "sitting on" the sites waiting for values to increase.
"One of the difficulties with the derelict sites legislation is that it's not putting enough pressure on the owners. You have buildings that have been on the derelict register for a decade or more. I think the city should be entitled to acquire those buildings at reduced cost," he said.
A recent Dublin City Council report on vacant sites found there are 62 hectares of unused land in the capital which could be used to build about 4,500 homes. A review by Cork City Council identified 200 buildings at risk of becoming derelict and 50 vacant sites which may be added to the register.
The local authority is engaging with the owners of these properties and further action may be taken.
"The market has been the key difficulty in recent years and owners find it difficult to access funds for development," a Cork city spokeswoman said.
"Now that these barriers are lifting somewhat, the city council will address these properties more actively. Ownership difficulties are also a barrier in certain cases and the city council uses its powers under the Derelict Sites Act to clear title."
With the Government desperately trying to address the housing crisis in urban areas, such sites would be prime locations for development.
Large swathes of land across the country were recently recategorised as 'urban' to allow councils bring hundreds of sites under the terms of the derelict sites legislation.
The moves means local authorities can impose an annual 3pc levy on owners who fail to bring neglected sites and buildings up to a safe standard.
However, plans to regenerate older buildings to encourage people to "live above the shop" will require careful thinking.
This is because older buildings are difficult and expensive to upgrade and bring into line with modern standards.
"It's very difficult to yield a return from living over the shop. We should utilise what we have, but major issues must be overcome," one source said.
"It's extraordinarily expensive to convert an older property to modern standards. There is an unwillingness to debate how much it costs to maintain and upgrade a property, apart from the annual running costs."
In addition to the derelict sites, there are almost 1,000 ghost estates scattered across the country that are in dire need of redevelopment. The Government has introduced a €10m fund which local authorities can draw down to carry out vital works in these areas.
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The Residential Land Availability Survey map was created by drawing together zoning maps held by each local authority in the State.
Developed by the Department of the Environment, it sets out individual plots of land in towns, villages, cities and rural areas, and indicates the number of homes permitted on each site.
It took almost two years to develop, and provides planners and developers with an overview of the available land for housing.
It does not include land zoned for mixed-use development, which would generally include some housing provision. Nor does it include derelict sites.
The data is based on the situation as of March 31 last. Stage 1 land is considered not viable for development in the short-term because necessary services such as water are not in place. Stage 2 land has no major constraints. Not all the land has planning permission.