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Social Justice Ireland welcomes the Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy, but greater urgency needed

There are almost 86,000 households identified in the Summary of Social Housing Needs Assessment 2017, almost a quarter of which have been waiting over 7 years, and over 61% have been waiting over 3 years.  Over 30% are lone parents with children and almost a quarter are couples or couples with children.  Recent studies have identified the hardship suffered, by children in particular,ho experiencing homelessness and housing issues.  This is a crisis and demands an emergency response.

Chart 1 below shows the number of vacant dwellings identified by the Census 2016 enumerators (excluding holiday homes) compared to the number of households on the social housing waiting lists per county.  While there may be issues with returning many of the identified vacant properties into use, and this strategy will by no means solve the housing crisis, it is notable that with the exception of Dublin and Kildare, there are more vacant homes than households on the list in almost every county.

Chart 1:  Vacant units 2016 v Social Housing Waiting Lists 2017, by County

Source:  Census 2016, and Housing Agency, Summary of Social Housing Assessments 2017, January 2018

There were a further 34,409 households in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) up to the end of 2017.  With increasing market rents out-stripping HAP rates and a demographic shift towards renting into older age, the sustainability of these tenancies is questionable.  Building more social and affordable homes is urgently required, but in the meantime, we cannot afford to continue to sit on vacant housing stock for another two years.