Ukrainian Crisis: Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Update
Following this morning’s Cabinet meeting, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien today provided an update on his Department’s work in relation to the Ukrainian crisis.
Emphasising the context within which his Department was working, the Minister said:
“The Ukrainian crisis poses simultaneously an unprecedented demographic challenge and a supply chain crisis for housing. My Department’s aim is to fully implement Housing for All as well as accommodate the needs of Ukrainian refugees.
“While the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth are the lead Department for the initial humanitarian response, my Department is focused on the mid to long term accommodation challenges that will inevitably emerge. In responding to the Ukrainian situation, any new accommodation we develop will be additional to our Housing for All targets for 2022. Any suitable and additional permanent accommodation will be returned to general social and affordable housing if and when the Ukrainian crisis is resolved and special accommodation needs end.”
Update on Ukraine Specific Actions
Local authorities have identified in excess of 500 vacant buildings in their local authority areas and, to date, 89 of these vacant buildings have been deemed capable of almost immediate occupation by up to 5,355 persons. IPAS have been notified of their availability for use. There is an assessment ongoing of the remaining buildings.
The Minister has requested the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) to develop a proposal for him in respect of the establishment of an Emergency Vacant Housing Delivery Unit, drawing on expertise from the local government and private sector to co-ordinate, consult with and direct refurbishment of buildings. Exemptions from planning requirements will be determined where necessary on these buildings.
A dedicated Director of Service level staff member, supported by a small team, will be assigned fulltime in all Local Authorities to coordinate the local response between all of the agencies and community groups engaged in support and service provision to the Ukrainians.
The OPW will lead on the design, development and delivery of any accommodation to be produced through modular/volumetric construction including associated site enabling works on available and suitable State land.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage will establish a ‘clearing house’ to address contractual, operational and compliance issues associated with planning permissions which have been granted and not yet activated.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage will expand on-site construction opening hours as appropriate.
Actions beyond the Ukrainian Response
The Department is also taking a number of actions for the wider housing system, to increase overall social housing stock and alleviate broader economic and supply chain issues.
The Department will remove the Local Authority acquisition cap and restore local decision making in certain emergency situations (homes suitable for ‘housing first’, homes which would prevent a person/family from entering homelessness etc).
There will be a new Voids programme for 2022 with an emphasis on quick turnaround and re-letting of vacant social housing stock to those on social housing waiting lists.
Currently, owners of vacant commercial properties in most local authorities have the right to a refund (up to 100%) on their commercial rates if they say it is vacant because they cannot get a reasonable rent, or because they are planning to redevelop it. This exemption will now be removed to promote full use of vacant properties.
Work is underway and legal advice is being finalised in relation to the restriction of Short Term Lets in rent pressure zones.
Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Press Office
Tel: (01) 888 2638 (direct)