THE Green Party held a public meeting to tackle the problem of vacant properties, which it wants converted into accommodation to tackle the housing problem.
The meeting was attended by minister of state and local TD Malcolm Noonan and Stephen Matthews, TD for Wicklow, along with local Green Party member Liam O’Brien, who said: “The people of Carlow are concerned about the rates of dereliction and vacancy in all our town centres, from our largest urban centre here in Carlow town to other town centres around the county. They want to see vibrant town centres where people live, work and do business. They also know that we are in the midst of a housing crisis and they question why these vacant and derelict properties cannot be put to use to help meet the needs of families desperately seeking a home.
“Town centre locations were once prized locations and there were very few derelict or vacant properties. We all know that landscape has changed. Unfortunately, derelict and vacant properties are now a common sight in Barrack St, The Shamrock, Dublin St and Tullow St.
Heritage minister Malcolm Noonan spoke about the Green Party policy of developing Town Centres First.
“There is a strong focus on vacancy and dereliction in this Programme for Government,” said minister Noonan. “We need to be mindful of place-making, accessibility, biodiversity. Part of the reason we turned our backs on the town centre is because it wasn’t considered fashionable. We have to address issues of noise, traffic, the night-time economy to make our town centres attractive again. We need to remember the social history of our towns, the people who owned shops and so on.”
The meeting was also addressed Steven Matthews TD, chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing, who recently introduced a ***Vacancy, Dereliction and Regeneration Bill***.
“We ask why so many buildings are derelict, but it’s not a simple solution,” he said. “We need to clearly define what’s vacant and what it would cost to bring it back into use. We need good data on this. Eventually we are going to have a vacancy officer in all local authorities and that will help.”
Deputy Matthews said there is cross-party support to tackle the dereliction problem, but it hasn’t happened previously. He introduced a Private Member’s Bill to the Oireachtas in May.
“The bill aims to make it easier to identify derelict and vacant properties and to renovate these properties. Current practices are not fit for purpose and are acting as barriers to converting vacant properties into homes for families and individuals,” said deputy Matthews.