ACCESS Seminar: Rethinking Urban Vacancy: a critical review of existing policies and measures in Dublin

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This presentation considers the current and recent context of vacancy in Dublin, Ireland. Urban vacancy is a complex and often invisible issue in cities, which comes into focus during moments of politicisation and/or policy intervention. These moments generally relate to specific challenges underscoring particular elements of vacancy (e.g. whether this be a focus on vacant land, vacant housing stock, or commercial property). As such, the policy context tends to be composed of long-term and more generalised planning measures combined with targeted interventions that seek to respond to particular policy problems of the moment. By examining the current political context surrounding urban vacancy and associated measures, our presentation seeks to offer deeper and more nuanced understanding of how vacancy is politically understood and responded to. We reflect on the limitations of normative understandings of urban vacant space in revealing the role of vacancy in capitalist cities and suggest that more critical assessments can unearth a multitude of urban processes pertaining to the ordering and management of such sites. Ultimately, our analysis aims to rethink how urban vacancy is currently defined, measured, and identified within Dublin, and Ireland more generally. This paper draws upon ongoing research on the Irish Research Council COALESCE-funded project Rethinking Urban Vacancy: addressing the challenge of underutilised land through innovative policy solutions.


Dr Cian O’Callaghan is an Assistant Professor in Urban Geography with the School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin. He is an urban and cultural geographer whose research interests include creativity and place, neoliberalism, and political contestations over the re-use of Ireland’s ‘new ruins’. Cian is the Principal Investigator of the RUV project, and co-editor of the forthcoming edited volume The New Urban Ruins: Vacancy, Urban Politics, and International Experiments in the Post-Crisis City. Dr Kathleen Stokes is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the RUV at Trinity College Dublin. Her research intersects urban and political geographies, with a particular interest in urban space, infrastructures, labour, waste, and citizenships. Kathleen recently completed her PhD at the University of Manchester, which studied state-led community waste initiatives in three South African cities.