Most long-term vacant council houses to be available within a year

Funding of €15m for local authorities to repair and refurbish vacant units

 Jan O’Sullivan:   nearly 2,000 units will be “returned to beneficial use”.

Jan O’Sullivan: nearly 2,000 units will be “returned to beneficial use”.

Wed, Jul 9, 2014, 01:01

The majority of all long-term vacant council houses will be available for use within a year, Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan has said.

Announcing a second round of funding, totalling €15 million, for local authorities to repair and refurbish vacant units – or ‘voids’- she said nearly 2,000 units would be “returned to beneficial use”. Yesterday’s announcement of funding for the repair of 1,008 units across the State comes in addition to €15 million announced in April.

A spokesman for Minister O’Sullivan said local authorities had applied for funding to refurbish 1,900 voids in April, when 952 were approved.

“So the majority of units submitted then are now included. However, there was a limit of €30,000 per unit in this call for proposals. The average cost was €16,000 for the approvals in April.

“So, there are units out there where the estimated cost of refurbishment would be over €30,000 so they aren’t part of this funding,” said the spokesman.

There are thought to be about 2,900 ‘voids’ - or units that have been vacant for an extended period due to the high level of repairs and refurbishment required to bring them back to a habitable state.

A significant proportion of the remaining 1,000 or so voids is not be eligible for this stream of funding as they are included in regeneration programmes in Dublin and Limerick. Remaining voids which would cost more than the ceiling €30,000 will remain vacant.

Overall Dublin City Council has been approved funding to bring 371 voids back into use, while Cork city has been for 186. Cork county will bring 181 units back to use by the end of the year, with Fingal bringing 147, Limerick city and county 86, South Dublin County Council 75, and, Galway county will bring 62 and Galway city will bring 42 ‘voids’ back into social housing use.

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown county council has applied for funding to refurbish just three voids. It has a social housing waiting list of 4,612 households. A spokesman said that while the council has 30 vacant units, just three are “long-term voids” and funding had been approved for them.

Louth County Council, which has a waiting list of 4,405 households, has sought funding for ten units. A spokesman said there were 45 “casual vacancies” and following approval for four voids’ refurbishment in April the remaining six have now also been approved.

Minister O’Sullivan described the €30 million investment as a “positive programme that increases social housing supply quickly”.

However, in a briefing to Dun Loaghaire Rathdown councillors this week, Tom McHugh, the council’s director of housing said: “The problem will not be solved by an increase in social housing supply only. There needs to be an increase in the supply of dwellings through a restarting of construction activity”.