Saturday 10 December 2016

More than 3,000 social houses lie idle nationwide

Published 09/11/2015 | 02:30

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There are over 3,000 social houses lying idle around the country while families continue to fend for themselves in homeless accommodation.

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New figures show there are vacant units in every county, many of which are in need of refurbishment to make them liveable.

However, the maximum sum available from the Department of Environment to repair so-called 'voids' is €30,000.

There is a huge county-by-county disparity, with areas like South Dublin having just 36 homes lying idle while the figure in Donegal is 159.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly is due to bring his long-awaited plan for dealing with the supply of social housing to the Cabinet tomorrow.

The €30,000 cap on refurbishment funding has been criticised by Fianna Fáil's environment spokesman Barry Cowen, who said there was a "shocking number" of vacant houses.

"Despite the fact that 3,000 housing units are sitting idle in local authority areas, in most instances in need of refurbishment before they can be given to families on the social housing waiting list, the department actually cut the refurbishment budget for 2015 by €6m," he told the Irish Independent.

However, a spokesperson for the minister said 2,400 homes were already refurbished using the fund and a similar number would be this year.

"Minister Kelly has already allocated additional funding this year to ensure the delivery of extra units. Dublin City alone will, by the end of the year, provide approximately 900 voids."

The funding is made available for local authorities to return social housing units to productive use when the cost of repair works greatly exceeds normal end-of-lease maintenance.

Mr Cowen said the €30,000 limit was "utterly insane". "The minister is willing to commit €100,000 to build a single temporary modular housing unit, but will not allow the refurbishment of a permanent housing unit if it costs above €30,000.

"While many of these homes already owned by local authorities are in need of significant repair, they could provide long-term homes for a family on the social housing list for much less than €100,000 and in a shorter time frame," he said.

Mr Cowen said this was "further evidence that Mr Kelly was more interested in making big-bang PR announcements than in actually engaging in the hard slog of sensible policy-making."

Mr Kelly's spokesman said the Fianna Fáil TD needed "to check his facts".

"Because of the funding programme for refurbishment, Dublin City Council will have a vacancy rate of less than 1pc by the end of the year, despite Fianna Fáil not adding a cent for regeneration of homes, or even additional homeless services, in their pre-Budget plans.

"In other words, when they had the opportunity to come forward with real solutions they shirked it," he said, adding Ireland had one of the lowest social housing markets in Europe during the Celtic Tiger era.

Irish Independent

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