Councils pay out €2.5m to board up empty homes
BOARDING up empty council houses has cost four local authorities more than €2.5m in just two years, the Irish Independent has learned.
There are an estimated 100,000 households around the country currently on the waiting lists for social housing.
The councils -- all based in Dublin -- racked up the huge bills in an attempt to protect the vacant properties, known as 'voids' from vandals.
National housing charity Threshold has acknowledged that vacant homes needed protection to stop malicious damage, but has criticised the amount of time taken to upgrade these homes before a new tenant could move in.
"Normally the reason a council house becomes vacant is the death of an elderly person living there," the charity's head, Aideen Hayden, said yesterday.
"By that stage the house may not have been refurbished for 30 years and may need a lot of work -- some wouldn't even have central heating -- but sometimes upgrading can take up to a year or longer.
"Given there's an estimated 100,000 on council house waiting lists, it seems obvious this work should be prioritised."
The local authorities concerned are Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and South Dublin County Council.
Dublin City Council spent almost €1.7m in securing vacant council homes in two years. This included a €812,740 spend in 2008 and €875,820 last year.
South Dublin County Council -- the second largest housing authority with 9,000 social housing units -- spent more than €400,000 on applying steel shutters to the front of empty houses over the same period.
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council spent €310,000 in two years on boarding up their empty social housing.
Fingal County Council spent €123,613 on boarding up empty homes with steel shutters over the two years. It runs just under 4,500 council houses, with 66 out of 84 vacant homes currently boarded up.
The recession has seen an explosion in the numbers on the social housing waiting list, with the most recent figures showing 99,846 households on the list by the end of 2009, a jump of more than three-quarters from the year before.
Only last month it was revealed that cash-strapped councils have been forced to look for an extension on loans of over €263m -- drawn down to buy land earmarked for social housing -- because they cannot afford repayments in the current climate.