Shocked. That’s the reaction of nearly everyone when they find out that in our cities there are 13 empty homes for every homeless adult. At Peter McVerry Trust, through our partnership with the CIF and others, we know that empty homes can be brought back to use quickly, effectively and offer quality homes.

The scale of housing need in Ireland clearly requires a broad response to boost housing availability. There is an obvious need for new build housing developments as we seek adequate supply levels. However, new build projects should mask the vast potential within the empty homes area and allow that potential to go unfulfilled.

Tackling the issue of empty homes has many benefits. The most obvious is that additional supply can be delivered in urban areas within existing communities and without the need for additional spending on infrastructure projects. This can be done quickly and cheaply.

This new supply means Peter McVerry Trust will be able to secure significantly more pathways out of homelessness for the people in homelessness. We know from our housing projects, including Hogan Court, that having a stable home with professional wraparound supports offered by our housing team means people can leave homelessness for good.

For the CIF and its members, a major works programme across Ireland focusing on empty homes would also be hugely beneficial. It would provide vital work for small and medium sized contractors working on projects that involve houses, apartment blocks, small derelict sites developments and converting over the shop spaces to residential use. 

Now, as the Government moves towards the development of its empty homes strategy we hope that they begin to recognise the enormous potential that exists. To house every household in homelessness across Ireland today we need 4,500 homes, a tiny fraction of the 198,000 empty homes.

The potential is clearly enormous and our goal is to ensure that the solutions put forward in the coming weeks will help realise that potential, not just for homeless households but also for all those in the housing system from first time buyers to renters to the broader social housing waiting list.

On March 9th Peter McVerry Trust is hosting Ireland’s First Empty Homes Conference with stakeholders from across public policy, legislators and the construction sector. For more visit www.pmvtrust.ie/emptyhomes

Pat Doyle is the CEO of Peter McVerry Trust.

Hogan Court Resident Peter with Tom Parlon, CIF Director General and Pat Doyle, CEO Peter McVerry Trust. The CIF and Peter McVerry Trust refurbished Hogan Court last year delivering homes for 12 individuals.