This week, we hear from Eimear Gourley, Director at Keego Investments about why the blight of empty properties across Northern Ireland needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
My job means regular travel across Northern Ireland looking for new homes and empty land for my clients to invest in. As I search for those properties, I am often surprised by the sheer number of empty and dilapidated houses there are, from our city centres to our rural communities. In fact, in Northern Ireland right now, there are around 20,000 houses sitting empty – possibly many more given that some homeowners won’t have registered their property as uninhabited.
We need to urgently address this, and for a number of reasons
From a human-centred point of view, it still shocks me that we have a homeless community in Belfast and beyond, while perfectly liveable homes lie vacant. With only very modest investment, how many people would be able to leave homelessness behind – affecting thousands across Northern Ireland – and be matched with a permanent, secure place to live?
From a property investment point of view, empty homes wreak havoc on local house prices. When I accompany any potential buyer to any street that has homes boarded up (or even worse, windowless) they’ll often not need to get out of the car to know it isn’t the street for them. Filling these homes with people and families that need them would have an immediate, positive effect on their neighbours’ house prices too.
Creating homes out of these empty houses will not only be good news in terms of house prices, but can also instantly transform the look of our local neighbourhoods.
Empty homes can also mean, not always, but often, an increase in the likelihood of antisocial behaviour. Empty homes can be a real target for vandals, fly-tippers or even squatters.
We would also expect to see a rise in the number of burglaries within any community that has a higher volume of empty homes, with criminals believing they’ve less chance of being spotted in the act.
Planning permission in Northern Ireland for new build developments is famous for having a variety of challenges. Instead of building a new home, taking an empty property that could be easily converted seems a much more logical and efficient approach.
If you’re someone that owns an empty home and you’re considering what you could do next, then selling or letting are the two obvious options that could make a real difference to someone’s life.