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Eamonn Farrell/
housing summit

Vacant houses: Varadkar says that council staff are casting doubt on official CSO stats

Questioned over whether a vacant housing tax would be introduced, Varadkar said that it was being considered.

AN TAOISEACH LEO Varadkar has said that council staff are calling into question the accuracy of Central Statistic Office’s (CSO) stats to do with vacant houses in the country.

Speaking to reporters today after attending a summit for housing in the Custom House in Dublin, Varadkar said that local authority housing staff said that there were fewer vacant properties than officially recorded by the CSO.

Questioned over whether a vacant housing tax would be introduced by government to tackle the growing crisis, Varadkar said that it was being considered.

However, he said that local authority staff had called into question the accuracy of CSO figures.

“You take for example Fingal or Galway where they have actually gone out to the individual houses to see how many are vacant,” the Taoiseach said.

And while the CSO might say there’s a certain number and geocode say there’s another number when the council staff have actually gone out to the houses and apartment and knock on the doors they found that the numbers that are really vacant are actually much smaller than the figures show.

Varadkar was speaking on the sidelines of the housing summit which was convened by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy in order to address the escalating housing crisis.

(If you can’t view the video click here)

Murphy invited the chief executives of the 31 local authorities to try to work through joint solutions to the crisis.

Census 2016 data shows that there were 183,312 vacant houses and apartments throughout the country.

Varadkar said each vacant property had its own “story” and that these were usually complicated.

“Sometimes it’s an elderly person who was in a nursing home, sometimes somebody has died and the house is in probate and there’s a dispute over who owns it,” he said.

They’re the real complications that arise.

He said that the tax was “certainly not something that we’d rule out” and that it was still under consideration.

“Would it be a game changer in terms of making housing available? Probably not,” he said.

But there is no quick fix to this, there is no single solution that is going to work. It’s going to require a whole range of solutions.

(If you can’t see the video, click here)

Varadkar said that increasing the supply of private and social housing and working with landlords to remain in the private rental market as well as addressing the underlying conditions that cause someone to become homeless were some of the solutions being explored.

Minister Murphy is expected to announce part of the government’s new strategy to tackle the housing crisis when the summit ends later this evening.

With reporting from Christina Finn

Read: ‘I used to have to wash myself in a bookies every morning because there would be needles all over the hostel’

Read: The number of homeless families in Ireland has increased by almost 300 in the past year

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