Minister English Publishes the Report of the Working Group on the Reuse of Existing Buildings and Bringing Back Homes Manual for the Reuse of Existing Buildings.

Today (17 December) Damien English T.D., Minister for Housing and Urban Development published the Report of the Working Group on the Reuse of Existing Buildings and Bringing Back Homes Manual for the Reuse of Existing Buildings.

Minister English commented that the primary benefit of bringing vacant buildings back in to use is the increased supply of quality and sustainable housing for the individuals and families. He added that “revitalising our main streets through well designed refurbishment of residential units, particularly above shops, could help to rejuvenate smaller town centres and city streets as well as produce more houses.”

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, the reuse of such floor space for residential use must be encouraged. Irrespective of whether they occur in city centres, suburbs or small rural towns, the possibility of returning partially vacant buildings to residential use provides us with a great opportunity as a society.

As part of the overarching policy document Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, Action 5.21 the Government is committed to bringing vacant and partially vacant properties back into use. 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 this form of development and where issues such as planning, fire safety, accessibility, building control and conservation, are addressed in isolation it can lead to additional work.

In this regard, a working group was established, chaired by the Department of Housing Planning and Local Government.. The working group comprised representatives from this Department, the Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht, local authorities, Fire Services, Building Control, Planning, and design professionals in private practice. It met on 11 occasions from October 2017 to November 2018 with the aim of providing greater clarity on regulatory requirements in a more co-ordinated way. It has now completed its work and  produced two documents, which are being published today: the Report of the Working Group on the Reuse of Existing Buildings and Bringing Back Homes Manual for the Reuse of Existing Buildings.

The Bringing Back Homes manual is aimed at property owners, members of the public, local authorities and stakeholders in the construction industry who are interested in developing vacant buildings.

It provides clear and detailed guidance on current policy and regulatory requirements that apply to this form of development.

It outlines the process and issues to be considered when developing existing buildings for residential purposes and applies these procedures to four common building types, which typically reflect the buildings (or parts of buildings) that are lying vacant in towns and cities all over Ireland today. It provides further guidance on the more complex redevelopments where multiple apartments are being created. A number of examples of completed projects are also showcased in the manual.

The Bringing Back Homes manual complements the new planning exemption introduced earlier this year, which allows the change of use of vacant commercial buildings to domestic use without having to go through the planning process.

The manual will also support the work of the vacant homes offices in local authorities, which create a central point of contact for those interested in developing existing buildings. These offices will be a useful resource to assist developers and owners in clarifying the regulatory requirements that exist  and how they apply to development, thus reducing uncertainty and complexity but maintaining safe, sustainable and quality standards for homes.


A copy of the manual and report can be downloaded here