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09 Aug 2022

Sharp rise in proposals to bring vacant Tipperary properties back into use since Repair & Lease Scheme reformed

Sharp rise in proposals to bring vacant Tipperary properties back into use since Repair & Lease Scheme reformed

Tipperary County Council has reported significant renewed interest in the county in the Repair & Lease Scheme that aims to encourage property owners to bring vacant properties back into use for social housing since key changes were made to it recently.

The council has received eight recent expressions of interest in providing 71 bedrooms across 47 units through the Repair & Lease Scheme since the reforms were introduced, Jonathan Cooney, senior engineer in the council’s Housing Section reported at the local authority’s July meeting.

He explained the expansion of the Repair & Lease Scheme removed the requirement that property owners must be unable to fund or access funding to bring their vacant properties up to standards for rented housing regulations.

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Significantly, vacant commercial properties, vacant units associated with a commercial property such as floors over a shop and vacant former institutional buildings are now included in the scheme whereas it previously only applied to vacant housing units.

Mr Cooney said the council has seen a very significant change in the past six to eight weeks since this expansion of the scheme with a huge uptake from “experienced entities who have an ability to deliver”.

Under the scheme, if your property is deemed suitable for social housing, the cost of the repairs is paid up-front by the local authority or an Approved Housing Body (AHB), which are also known as housing associations.

You then lease, or make the property available, to the local authority or AHB, who will use it for social housing. You will get an agreed rental payment from the local authority or AHB and the value of the repairs will be gradually offset against this rental payment over a specified period.

However, Clonmel’s Cllr John Fitzgerald, who is an auctioneer and estate agent, told the council meeting he believed the Repair & Lease Scheme was not going to work until commercial property owners were given a tax incentive to do up their vacant properties.

He explained that the scheme as it currently operates was essentially a loan that the property owner pays back. He argued that the government had to make it worth business owners’ while to get the top floors over their shops refurbished for renting out as social housing.

“If I went up O’Connell Street (in Clonmel) I don’t know if I would get two people who would want to sign up to that scheme.”
He said the floors over shops and businesses on the street were there for dead crows and to store Christmas trees, which was sad because a family could live in that space.

The council’s Director of Housing Sinead Carr responded that she didn’t accept that the Repairs & Lease Scheme was effectively a loan. The revised scheme includes more commercial properties and owners but she agreed it may not be as attractive to business owners in particular financial circumstances.

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