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File photo of tents along the Royal Canal in Dublin. Sam Boal/

Owners of vacant properties urged to make them available for homeless people ahead of Christmas

“Bringing a vacant home back into use can change people’s lives for the better.”

OWNERS OF VACANT homes are being encouraged to make their properties available for homeless families as Christmas approaches.

Tom Gilligan, Director of Services at Mayo County Council, has urged people to register unused properties on or contact the relevant local authority. 

Gilligan said every effort must be made to “ensure more families get to celebrate Christmas in the comfort of a home as opposed to a hotel room or B&B”.

He said properties already registered with the aforementioned website, which he founded, show there are a significant number of properties with “the potential to be turned around within a relatively short period of time”.

When registering a property, people are asked about possible upgrades that may need to be carried out such as repairing damage to the roof or windows.

“Although impossible to tell exactly what is needed until an inspection is made of the inside of the building, from our own information and statistics it appears that more vacant homes could be brought back into use with significantly less spend and within a quicker time frame than a new build,” Gilligan stated.

Over 10,000 people homeless 

More than 10,000 people are registered as homeless in Ireland, including 6,490 adults and 3,848 children.

Gilligan said these figures highlight that “the need for housing has never been greater”.

“Vacant homeowners are urged to come forward, particularly in areas where there is a housing need, to provide an opportunity and a fresh beginning for those that are currently experiencing homelessness.

Christmas is very much a time for families and togetherness, it’s a time for giving and helping others. Bringing a vacant home back into use can change people’s lives for the better. It provides a fresh start for those families experiencing homelessness and a way to kick off the New Year with hope, security and a sense of belonging.

To date, over 3,200 properties have been registered with the website – 48% in Leinster 36% in Munster, 13% in Connacht and 3% in Ulster. Almost 300 properties have been brought, or are in the process of being brought, back into use.

Schemes available 

Several government schemes are available, under the Rebuilding Ireland plan, to assist owners in getting their property back into use.

The Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) is available where a property requires repairs to bring it up to required standard for rented properties.

The RLS will pay for the repairs up-front in return for the property being made available to be used as social housing for a period of at least five years under either a direct lease or Rental Availability Arrangement with a local authority.

The maximum funding available under this scheme is €40,000, inclusive of VAT. Where the property is a former bedsit being brought up to standard, funding of up to €50,000 is available.

Another scheme, the Long-Term Leasing Initiative, allows owners of vacant properties that are in good condition to lease their properties to city or county councils.

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