Minister English launches manual to assist redevelopment of vacant buildings

Embargoed: 12:01 10 April 2019

  • Manual aims to help increase supply of quality housing for individuals and families
  • Manual aimed at property owners, the public, local authorities and construction industry
  • Planning exemption introduced in 2018 allows for change of use of certain vacant commercial buildings to domestic use without requirement for planning permission

The Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English, T.D., today (10 April, 2019) launched a manual to help property owners, the public, local authorities and the construction industry to developing vacant building. Bringing Back Homes – Manual for the reuse of existing buildings aims to help increase housing supply as well as rejuvenate town centres and city streets. The Government’s Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, commits to bringing vacant and partially vacant properties back into use.

Speaking at the document’s launch at an event in the Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone, this morning, Minister English said: “The centres of our towns and cities contain a large amount of underused built stock, including unused or underused floors above ground-floor retail premises. To increase the supply of new homes, we must encourage the reuse of such floor space for residential use. Revitalising our main streets through well-designed refurbishment of residential units, particularly above shops, could help to increase housing stock and rejuvenate smaller town centres and city streets.”

The manual provides clear and detailed guidance on the current policy and regulatory requirements applying to development of vacant buildings. It contains:

  • an outline of the process and issues to be considered when developing existing buildings for residential purposes. It applies these procedures to four common building types that lie vacant in towns and cities across Ireland
  • a suite of reuse options for the four common building types and elaborates on the complexity associated with each option
  • an overview of the technical requirements associated with creating ‘over the shop’ space into residential units

Minister English added: “This manual is a resource which supports the good work of the vacant homes officers in local authorities. I urge all interested in developing existing buildings, be they developers or property owners, to use these central contact points if they need clarity on regulatory requirements and how they apply to development. I want to thank all involved in producing this document for their work.”

The Minister concluded: “Through the publication of this manual the Government is providing another support to those who can reuse existing buildings for housing stock or the rejuvenation of our towns and streets. This is a valuable contribution to addressing the challenges we face in the area of housing, including combating homelessness, and urban regeneration.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors

  • Bringing Back Homes – Manual for the reuse of existing buildings can be downloaded below
  • The reasons why so many properties remain underused are complex. Identifying, reactivating and renovating these properties can, in some instances, be challenging. It was suggested that a lack of clarity as to how regulatory systems apply was hindering development of vacant buildings. It was also suggested that addressing issues such as planning, fire safety, accessibility, building control and conservation in isolation can lead to additional work for those trying to reuse existing buildings.
  • Publication of the manual was a commitment under Action 5.21 of Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness and is also referenced in the National Vacant Homes Reuse Strategy 2018-2021.
  • The Bringing Back Homes manual was produced by a working group chaired by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (DHPLG). The working group comprised representatives from the DHPLG, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, local authorities, Fire Services, Building Control, Planning, and design professionals in private practice. The group’s aim was to provide greater clarity on regulatory requirements and in a more coordinated way. It met on 11 occasions from October 2017 to November 2018. The working group also produced ‘Report of the Working Group on the Reuse of Existing Buildings’, which is available on the Department’s website.
  • The Bringing Back Homes manual and Report of the Working Group on the Reuse of Existing Buildings were both published in December 2018.
  • The Government introduced a new planning exemption in 2018 that allows the change of use of certain vacant commercial buildings to domestic use without the requirement for planning permission.

A copy of the manual and report can be downloaded here