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Waterford City and County Council’s approach to Urban Vacancy recognised



Waterford City has featured prominently in the recently published report Urban Vacancy in Ireland: Assessing Recent Responses and Opportunities.

This is the second and final policy output of the Irish Research Council-funded project Rethinking Urban Vacancy, led by Dr Cian O’Callaghan in partnership with Dublin City Council’s Housing Observatory. The report is co-authored by Dr Kathleen Stokes (University of Galway), Dr Cian O’Callaghan (Trinity College Dublin), and Dr Maedhbh Nic Lochlainn (University of Luxembourg).

The report outlines recent responses to urban vacancy in Ireland and the challenges and lessons drawn from the experience in the cities of Waterford, Cork and Dublin.

It was noted that Waterford City has recently undergone considerable transformations through area-based regeneration, which include the city’s Cultural Quarter and Viking Triangle.

The report highlighted that in policy and local governance circles, Waterford has been recognised as a national leader for its proactive efforts to bring urban vacant residential properties back into use.

In some instances, the Local Authority has directly purchased and converted properties, while many other properties have been brought back into use by encouraging property owners to avail of RLS support. Waterford City and County Council has also promoted the ongoing planning exemption for units over shops to be converted into residential dwellings, with funding from the Living City Initiative.

With over 140 units completed, Waterford’s promotion of Repair and Lease has had a significant impact on the city and suggests that it is possible to encourage and incentivise property owners to bring properties back into use, particularly with the promise of a guaranteed rental income and interest-free loans for repairs.

Officials and developers alike framed Waterford City and County Council’s active approach towards vacant housing as a necessity for the city, which they suggest will encourage complementary efforts by the private sector and property owners in the city.

The report also stated that, amongst interviewees, Waterford was repeatedly upheld as a relative success story in terms of Local Authority responses to vacancy and suggested that ease of access to different Local Authority departments and close relations between key actors within and outside of local government have made for a relatively smooth process when bringing properties back into use.

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