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Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien said he has been engaging with Simon Coveney about the prospect of repurposing offices for housing. Alamy Stock Photo

O'Brien seeking to convert vacant office blocks into apartments to tackle housing crisis

The Housing Minister today confirmed that he was engaging with Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney on the matter.

HOUSING MINISTER DARRAGH O’Brien is engaging with the Minister for Enterprise on the possibility of converting underutilised or vacant office space into apartments as part of measures to tackle the ongoing housing crisis. 

It comes as the Government is under increasing pressure to provide more accommodation for people following the lifting of the eviction ban amidst record homelessness figures.

The need for emergency accommodation is also increasing, with a number of international protection applicants now sleeping rough in Dublin city.

This pressure has been exacerbated by recent anti-immigration protests, which have seen the burning of tents belonging to homeless asylum seekers.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, O’Brien confirmed that he has been engaging with Simon Coveney about the prospect of repurposing offices for housing. 

“I think we’ve got to look at every avenue. One in relation to office blocks, and I’ve been engaging with Minister Coveney on that and we’ve actually had some already,” he said, referencing a recent development by Tuath Housing in Dublin.

“I think we can do more than that, and this is, in addition. Last year, as you know, we were able to produce 30,000 new homes. That far exceeded our target, and we want to do more this year.”

O’Brien said the government wants to build more social homes and is also providing measures, such as grants which aim to bring vacant and underused buildings back into residential, through the Housing for All plan to provide more accommodation. 

“I think we’ve got to look at all avenues and to see what things can be done to look at where there may be surplus office space, and what can be repurposed into housing. But we need to actually increase our housing supply. We know that and we’re doing that, and it’s about further additionality, in that space.

“We’re going to pursue this measure, but as I said, it’s about using vacant stock, bringing it back in and looking at other buildings that would be better used for residential, but also building our new stock which thankfully, we are doing and we’re doing at scale now, a scale that hasn’t been seen in decades.”

Asked if he knew how much utilising office space for accommodation would add to the housing stock, O’Brien said he did not at this stage. 

“But I think most people will know, particularly across our cities where we see people are working differently and we have more remote working too, that there may be opportunities where office developments have been built that can be repurposed.

“That’s why I’m engaging with Minister Coveney, who has been very supportive on our housing plan, as all Government colleagues have as well, and it’s just to look at the opportunities that may present themselves there.”

The conversion of office space for accommodation may be criticised by businesses, who have already raised concerns about the impact the lack of housing supply is having on investment in Ireland.

In January, business group IBEC warned that the housing crisis is a critical barrier to continued growth and business investment, with a survey showing that over 70% of companies identified housing availability for staff as a challenge to their business operations in the year ahead.

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