"Homeless Figures Today are Equivalent to the Population of Castlebar " - Tóibín
The Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD has said that the number of people homeless in Ireland today equates to the population of the town of Castlebar. He said the multitude of solutions put forward by the opposition need to be implemented as a matter of urgency.
He was speaking after homeless figures today hit a new record, having breached 12,000. Over 4,000 of those who are homeless are children.
Deputy Tóibín said: "This is a humanitarian crisis. The overall figures are shocking, but especially the number of homeless children. The government need to stop thinking about solutions and ideas, and actually start implementing them. They must urgently back the Aontú Bill on Air BnB's which seeks to revert B&Bs back to their original set-up whereby the owner lives in the property, in any town or city where the population is greater than 10,000. This would mean an end to the practice of tourists renting empty properties for large periods. We cannot persist with a ludicrous situation which sees tourists occupy houses, while families and students are in hotels and hostels".
Deputy Tóibín continued: "We also need government to urgently provide funding to each local authority around the country so they can bring their vacant properties back into use. There are currently hundreds, if not thousands, of council houses around the country which are empty or boarded up. These are properties already in the ownership of the state. It is an utter disgrace that these properties are being left idle and that the State is hoarding vacant properties in the middle of this crisis".
"There are also vacant properties owned by the OPW and various government departments, including a number of former Garda stations and Garda dwellings which Aontú believes should immediately be handed over to the local authorities within which they are lying empty. The government cannot keep rejecting every proposal put forward by the opposition and claiming that they have better ideas - the figures speak for themselves - the housing crisis is spiralling out of control!", concluded Tóibín.
For Written Answer on : 25/04/2023
Question Number(s): 225 Question Reference(s): 19171/23
Department: Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform
Asked by: Peadar Tóibín T.D.
To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure; National Development Plan Delivery and Reform the number of properties that are owned and rented by the State through the Office of Public Works; the number of these properties that are vacant; the length of time each property has been vacant; and the location of each.
(See attached file: Appendix 1 - list of vacant properties and sites 20.04.23.xlsx)
The Office of Public Works (OPW) has responsibility on behalf of the State for managing and maintaining a substantial and complex estate of approximately 2,500 properties.
This extensive and diverse portfolio of State properties includes office accommodation for all Government Departments, the property estate for An Garda Síochána and numerous properties for many State Agencies. The portfolio also encompasses specialised spaces such as public offices, laboratories and cultural institutions, in addition to warehouses, heritage properties, visitor centres and sites.
In any major portfolio, there will always be a certain level of vacant properties. It is normal to have an amount of space vacant, or vacant properties, at any given time as the portfolio could not function without the flexibility that it provides. Not all vacant properties will be deemed surplus to the State’s requirements or deemed suitable for disposal.
The OPW, like other State bodies, is obliged to follow central Government policies on the disposal of surplus properties. The arrangements involved are set out in the following Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) Circulars:
· Circular 11/2015: Protocols for the Transfer and Sharing of State Property Assets
· Circular 17/2016: Policy for Property Acquisition and for Disposal of Surplus Property
As a matter of policy, no property or site is disposed of until there is absolute certainty that there is no alternative State use for that property.
The OPW’s approach to managing vacant, surplus properties is firstly, to establish if the property is required for alternative State use, including the potential for it to be re-purposed for either Government Departments or the wider public service. A number of strategic properties or sites are retained in anticipation of potential State use/development in line with service demands arising from Government policy changes to public service provision.
Secondly, if no State use is identified, the OPW considers if open market disposal is an option, depending on prevailing market conditions.
Thirdly, the OPW may consider community involvement, subject to a detailed submission that demonstrates that the community or voluntary group seeking to use the property has the means to insure, maintain and manage it in order to reduce costs to the Exchequer.
In line with the above policy, the OPW has provided a list of its surplus properties, including former Garda stations, to the Land Development Agency, Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and the relevant Local Authorities so that they could assess them for suitability for social or humanitarian housing purposes or for other State use.
There are currently 65 vacant, surplus properties (buildings). Four of these properties are currently sale agreed (Contracts for Sale are executed and 10% deposits paid). A further 17 of these properties are in the process of being transferred to Local Authorities or to other State bodies.
There are also 26 vacant and surplus sites. One of these sites is sale agreed and a further four are in the process of being transferred to Local Authorities or to other State bodies:
Summary - Vacant Buildings and Sites
Former Garda Stations
Other Former Garda Stations
Former Garda Residences
Former Coastguard Properties
Former Customs Properties
Former Met Station Properties
Former Coastguard Sites
Former Customs Sites
Former Met Station Site
The process for transferring properties and sites to Local Authorities is set out in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s Circular 11/15: The Protocols for the Transfer and Sharing of State Property Assets. The Protocols state that the market value of the property is to be independently determined by the Valuation Office and is binding on both parties.
The OPW regularly engages with Local Authorities and Government Departments/Agencies with information on its vacant property stock.
A list of the current vacant properties (buildings and sites) and the length of time, if known, that each unit has been vacant is attached at Appendix 1. This does not include those properties that are an intrinsic part of heritage estates or gardens that would not be considered to be surplus to requirements or part of the OPW's disposal programme.
The Office of Public Works does not have any leased buildings that are fully vacant at this time. The OPW is not in a position to provide data on any leased buildings that may be held by other State bodies where those bodies have entered into an agreement directly with a landlord.