Wednesday 22 May 2019

Protest may delay letting of Brega home, claims council

The boarded-up home in Brega which was occupied by protesters last week.
The boarded-up home in Brega which was occupied by protesters last week.

Ken Phelan

Fingal County Council has condemned the occupation of a vacant house in Brega, Balbriggan by a group of housing activists saying their actions may delay the re-letting of the home.

Meanwhile a Sinn Féin councillor has said he understands the motives behind the protest but said there were other ways to make the point.

A group calling itself 'The Fingal Battalion', said they were protesting 'in solidarity' with the Take Back the City campaign which has seen vacant homes all over the country being occupied in protest at the housing crisis.

According to Fingal County Council, the property in Balbriggan was being refurbished, having returned to housing stock in June 2018, and was due to be allocated to a 'qualified applicant' on Fingal County Council's housing list.

The council said a Vacant Homes Officer was appointed in September 2017, along with a Vacant Homes Action Plan in December 2017, which was currently being implemented.

The areas of Swords, Balbriggan and Dublin 15 were said to be the 'initial focus' of the plan, as they were areas of 'high social housing demand.'

Denouncing the occupation, the council said approximately 200 properties have been identified across the county as long-term vacant properties, which would potentially be suitable for social housing.

The council also said that 'damage caused by the trespassers' last week, 'may result in the handover of the property being delayed.'

Speaking to The Fingal Independent, local Sinn Fein Cllr Malachy Quinn said: 'They (the activists) occupied the property to highlight the housing crisis, but there are other ways to do that.

'Unfortunately though, the situation has got so bad that they feel they need to take action.

'Every single issue that comes to my door in my clinic, is people either going into homelessness, or very close to going into homelessness.'

He added: 'We have a situation where people are working, they're earning good money, and they can't afford to rent. They're moving back in with their parents, and that causes difficulties.

'As young adults, there's no chance of independent living.'

'We're going to look back in years to come and our children are going to ask what we did to prevent so many people going into homelessness.

'It's an epidemic, an absolute epidemic and there are some frightening statistics coming out on a monthly basis.'

Speaking on what Sinn Fein planned to do to deal with the crisis, Cllr Quinn said: 'We're working on opening up lands in Fingal, where families would be able to avail of affordable and social housing, so that people who want to remain in their community would have the opportunity to be able to purchase there.'

He concluded: 'We need to build social housing, and we need to buy in from every stakeholder involved, whether that be from local government to central government and from local communities as well to sort this problem.'

Fingal County Council defended its record on turning around vacant homes.

A statement from the local authority said it 'has a strong record in relation to the turn around time for void properties and 1% of the stock is currently void or undergoing pre-let repairs. It cannot always be assumed that empty dwellings are in the possession of the council as the resolution of legal or Tenancy situations may prevent the council from carrying out works.

'In addition, the 2016 Census shows that the County's overall vacancy rate in relation to private housing in the county was 4.7%, which was one of the lowest in Ireland.'

The 'Fingal Battalion' protest group has said it intends to mount a similiar protest in October to keep the local housing and homelessness crisis in the spotlight.

Fingal Independent