Councillor brands 63 vacant Bray council homes as ‘scandalous’

The Southern Cross Central residential development, Bray.

Tom GalvinBray People

At this month’s meeting of Bray Municipal District, Sinn Fein Councillor Grace McManus referred to the rise in the number of notices to quit since the ending of the eviction ban, while the alarming number of 63 vacant homes was raised by Independent Councillor Joe Behan.

Wicklow County Council had received 12 notices to quit in Bray and nine in Greystones, according to the figures which emerged during the last meeting of the authority in April, and Cllr McManus asked how the figures were impacting Bray Housing Officer Garvan Hickey.

Cllr McManus also referred to the Place Finder Service in Wicklow, which offers support for homeless households who are finding it difficult to secure HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) tenancies, adding there was a drop-in service run by Simon in Bray for people who were struggling to secure a HAP property but that was no longer being offered. She queried whether there was a need for such a service to be reintroduced in Bray.

Cllr McManus also queried the number of vacant properties in Bray and what the position was with regard to their progress. Councillor Melanie Corrigan, meanwhile, enquired about the readiness of the Southern Cross apartments in Bray, which have been delayed.

The number of vacant council homes was also raised by Councillor Joe Behan, who gave the figure currently at 63 in Bray, Kilmacanogue and Enniskerry. He said that Bray Municipal District last year was stopped from carrying out work on vacant homes because it had surpassed the budget.

“The reason why we have more vacant homes this year is because we didn’t have enough money to keep going last year. It’s great that we are getting some money,” he added, “but what I want to emphasise is the staff here have done an excellent job, but we need to keep the pressure on [to get more funding].

“It is so scandalous for people to be looking at all these houses boarded-up across the town, whether they’re homeless themselves, or whether they have relatives who are homeless, it’s very, very hard to explain.”

Councillor Aoife Flynn Kennedy echoed the comments of Cllr Behan in his praise for the housing staff, adding that a huge number of people were facilitated in their move recently from overcrowded accommodation, to more appropriate accommodation.

“While we absolutely need more funding,” she said, “sometimes, some of our successes are the fact that we have been able to help some families, which has resulted in homes becoming vacant, and they obviously need to brought back up to a certain standard.”

Addressing the councillors, housing officer Garvan Hickey firstly referred to the Homeless Prevention team which was established in Wicklow, which meets twice a week to survey the list of notices to quit to either provide alternative accommodation, or utilise the tenant-in-situ purchase scheme. He said the HAP place-finding service is proactive across the county, including Bray.

He said he would concur with Cllr Behan, in that the team had done Trojan work on the vacant homes over the last number of months in getting them back to standard. He said there were 30 properties coming on stream within the next two weeks.

He said there had been unforeseen delays regarding the apartments on Southern Cross, but that interviews had been arranged for tenants for the first phase, starting with the one-beds, to be followed by the two-beds in blocks of 20. He added it is hoped the first 80 apartments will be filled in June. Snagging for the second phase, he said, would be carried out within the next two weeks, with hopes that tenants will be moving in by August.