More than 10,000 homes lying idle in rural towns
More than 10,000 homes in large provincial towns could be brought back into use by extending a tax incentive already in place in our cities.
The Living City initiative, currently confined to parts of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Kilkenny, should be extended to help revitalise large towns and deliver homes for families and workers, the Heritage Council has said.
Using Census 2016 data from the Central Statistics Office, the council's heritage officer Colm Murray found there were more than 10,000 vacant units - not used as holiday homes - in 17 large provincial towns, many close to large centres of employment.
They include more than 1,400 in Drogheda and Dundalk in Co Louth, and 458 in Naas, Co Kildare, all within commuting distance of Dublin.
Another 377 are in Ballinasloe and 498 in Ennis, Co Clare, both of which are close to Galway.
The largest number is in Sligo at 1,365, followed by Tralee in Kerry with 820.
"This data highlights both the threats and opportunities posed by this stock of vacant dwellings in these towns, which are located in their centres and suburbs," said Mr Murray.
"Bringing this housing stock back into habitation would help revitalise and conserve the fabric of these towns, and the conservation costs involved would be much less than to construct new homes on greenfield sites. "Furthermore, a failure to revitalise and conserve this housing stock will lead to further loss of commercial activity in these areas."
A 'Repair and Lease' scheme from the Government will offer owners of vacant properties up-front payments in a scheme designed to bring thousands of homes back into use, with €2m set aside next year. The Living City Initiative gives tax breaks to owners or landlords to refurbish vacant units, paid over seven years. It applies only to units 100 years or older.