Two of the impacts of Europe’s financial crisis are high levels of youth unemployment and a large number of vacant and derelict homes

Ireland has one of the highest proportions of young people (15-24 year olds) not in employment, education or training in Europe. In 2013 this accounted for 28% of Irish 15-24 year olds and this was higher than the European average. In 2011, the Oireachtas estimated that the economic cost of youth unemployment in Ireland was €4.3 billion, or 2.8% of Ireland’s GDP.

 

Youth unemployment has a detrimental effect on young people that can continue into later life by impacting on future earnings, physical and mental health and social isolation. Youth unemployment can also lead to greater pressure on public services.

Following the economic crisis and collapse in the property boom there were up to 11 million empty homes across Europe.

In 2011, the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis estimated that there are currently 338,031 vacant units around the country. More conservative estimates suggest there are just over 230,000. A smaller portion of these are owned by local authorities as part of the stock of social housing. Deutsche Bank also estimated that at current population growth rates it will take 43 years to fill all the empty homes in Ireland.

 

Vacant social housing units are called voids and there is an estimated 3,500 of these voids across Ireland with 600 in Dublin city alone. Empty properties have a number of negative effects on communities including anti-social behaviour,the lowering of property prices and a negative effect on the wellbeing of communities. In Ireland, the increase in homelessness has renewed political focus on the refurbishment of these voids.

Could we tackle youth unemployment by doing something positive with empty properties before they are turned into much needed homes?

There is a need to provide meaningful experiential and practice based learning opportunities for young people. Young people also need to be supported to develop creative solutions to their own employment challenges while being engaged with the issues faced by their own communities.

We believe that there is an opportunity to use empty housing and other buildings on a temporary basis to improve the confidence, skills and employability of young people who are not in employment, education or training in a way that will benefit their communities.