City homes lying vacant due to delays in getting Garda clearance on tenants


DELAYS IN securing Garda clearance for new social housing tenants has left large numbers of flats and houses in Dublin city empty, a Labour city councillor has said.

It is estimated that 10 per cent of the council's housing stock is lying vacant, compared with a national average of less than 5 per cent. Cllr Seán Kenny said a large number of these vacancies have arisen because the council will not house tenants until they have received clearance from gardaí.

The council claims that most of the vacant units are ones due for demolition under its various refurbishment programmes.

Social housing applicants who have reached the top of the housing list in their area are being forced to wait for an additional period while council officials try to get clearance from local gardaí, Mr Kenny said.

"Some people are waiting on the housing list for 10 years or more. The system of Garda checks was brought in for very sensible reasons, to combat drug dealing and anti-social behaviour, but it is very frustrating for decent people who know houses are vacant for quite a long time."

Council officials have told Mr Kenny that because of Garda shift patterns, a particular garda who might be assigned to vetting a tenant could be working outside office hours for an extended period and be uncontactable by the council. Mr Kenny said while he understood Garda resources were limited, a garda at management level should be assigned to ensure the system works.

"I am calling on the Government, Justice Minister, and Garda Commissioner to give a higher priority to this identifiable gap in Garda housing estate management. It is appalling with the numbers of people on housing lists, close to 50,000 families nationally, that thousands of local authority homes are lying empty."

A spokesman for the council said it was monitoring the amount of time it takes to fill empty units. While Garda checks may be an aspect of the problem, delays were generally caused by the need for repairs, the rate of refusals, and the policy of giving a period of grace to families to move possessions following the death of a tenant, it said.

Currently, 3,108 social housing units in the city are vacant, the council said. "A breakdown of this figure will show that the majority of these empty units are vacant pending demolition in places such as Ballymun, St Michael's Estate and O'Devaney Gardens, or are vacant pending refurbishment of the entire block of units."

Just over 7 per cent of the total housing stock was awaiting demolition, the council said.

"Of the 3,018 empty units, a total of 2, 165 units will not be relet again. Therefore, the true figure of units empty that will be relet is 853, which represents 3.1 per cent of the total stock."

The Garda checks were part of the council's efforts to provide a secure and safe environment for tenants, it said.

The Department of the Environment said Garda checks are not required under housing legislation, but the 1997 housing act does enable local authorities to carry out such checks.