Chairman of the Housing Agency Conor Skehan has said more needs to be done to solve the housing crisis than just building new homes.
It comes after a new report from the agency estimates that there are almost 250,000 empty houses across Ireland.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland yesterday, Mr Skehan said this is an opportunity for everyone as it translates to around two years’ supply of housing that could be used.
Mr Skehan said there are a range of solutions that the Government could use to incentivise owners of vacant homes to open them up.
He said refurbishment grants for vacant homes or short-term taxation breaks on rental income when someone puts a vacant property into use could be launched.
Other countries penalised those who had long-term vacant properties but the housing agencies would prefer to use “carrots”, Mr Skehan said.
“Countries like Scotland, England and France actually penalise long-term vacancies – once your house is vacant for more than a year in an area of high population density you would start to pay dramatically increased tax every year.”
He added that bringing property back into use is “the real trick”.
The Minister for Housing, meanwhile, has admitted something needs to be done about the vacant homes in Ireland.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Simon Coveney said a new housing policy will be launched by the end of July, adding that he will not be afraid to be radical.
Mr Coveney indicated that he “may well” look at the option of tax penalties to force vacant properties into use.
The Cork South Central said 40% of people looking for homes in the Dublin area are getting no supply at all.
He said there is a mismatch in terms of the number of housing units being built but also the type of units being provided.
The minister said that homelessness and housing is the Government’s number one priority.
Meanwhile, Focus Ireland said the Government may need to consider a moratorium on evictions as the number of families becoming homeless continues to rise.
74 families became homeless in Dublin in April. Figures from Focus Ireland show that 366 families became homeless in the first four months of the year.
The charity’s Director of Advocacy, Mike Allen, said it is simply not possible for the homeless sector to deal with that number of families losing their homes.
Mr Allen said the number of families ending up homeless us continuously rising, adding that figures released by the charity today do not indicate a downward trend.
He said with summer coming there will be more pressure on hotels, meaning less rooms available for families.
Mr Allen added what we want to avoid is a point where we hear of a family sleeping in a park.