Bringing Families Back Living In Town Centres

Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara has suggested Ennis town centre as the focus of a government pilot project aimed at bringing buildings back into residential use.

Deputy McNamara, who presented the proposal to the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dáil Éireann today, said that many business premises which once had families living over them now lie empty over ground level for a variety of reasons including particularly building regulations and insurance costs.

Addressing the Taoiseach in the Dáil, Deputy McNamara said, “Ennis, like other market towns in Clare and like market towns all over the country, has streets full of fine old buildings where there is a retail unit at ground level and in many but not all cases, they are vacant over ground level. A century ago, there were families living in them.”

“I don’t underestimate the difficulty of converting those back into residential use. There are regulations, there are issues around financing, but it would offer many benefits not just in housing, but also benefits for the environment and for society,” he added.

Deputy McNamara told the Dáil that a team of Irish architects who attended the 2018 Venice Biennale, an international cultural exhibition hosted annually in Italy, had highlighted how market towns could be reinvigorated. He asked the Taoiseach if he would consider a pilot project to bring such properties in market towns back into residential use.

“It sounds like a good idea to me,” the Taoiseach said in response before adding that he would follow up with Deputy McNamara on the proposal.

The Taoiseach added, “I’ve already seen around the country a number of buildings brought back into use for residential form, a number of pubs that have been turned into residential accommodation, office blocks in this city that have been turned into residential accommodation.”

Deputy McNamara replied by saying the that the conversion of above ground levels into residential use is “much more complicated” when there is a retail premises on ground level to which the Taoiseach said he would follow up with the Deputy on the matter.