Empty office blocks would be converted into apartments under a Government plan to tackle the housing shortfall as political pressure over the crisis intensifies.
As The Irish Times reports, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has lobbied his Cabinet colleague Simon Coveney, the Minister for Enterprise, on the issue – seeking his support for a plan that would convert offices built during the recent construction boom but are now underutilised.
In a letter to Mr Coveney last week Darragh O’Brien said that a “surge in office construction” has surpassed Celtic Tiger levels of output and combined with post-pandemic working practices in a way that “may result in an oversupply of office space”.
“Given the strategic, central location of many office sites and the high demand for housing in these areas I believe there is an opportunity for the conversion of some of that underutilised office space into residential units,” he wrote, arguing that empty offices “could become vibrant apartment blocks in the heart of our cities”.
The plan could raise concerns among employers and business groups.
However, the scale of the housing crisis means it has shifted to the forefront of the debate about employment and investment.
The IDA has warned about capacity deficits – including in housing – in the economy damaging Ireland’s competitiveness, while the Taoiseach last year admitted the crisis was a drag on investment.
Meanwhile, with less than two years to the next general election pressure is growing on the Government to make progress tackling the housing crisis.
Long lead-in times and delays to housing projects mean the capacity to add new-build homes before then is limited.
The letter outlines the need to “do more” to build on the Government’s Housing For All plan, arguing that “maximising the usage of existing buildings is a key part of the plan and can help us meet our housing need”.
“This has to be balanced against the overall demand for such capacity in our thriving economy with unprecedented levels of employment,” Mr O’Brien noted.