Call for local authorities to transfer empty properties to housing associations
Focus Ireland conference hears 3,500 dwellings vacant but too expensive for councils to make habitable
Jan O’Sullivan, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, opens Focus Ireland’s conference on ‘New Solutions to Finding Homes’ at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Local authorities should transfer over 3,500 vacant houses and flats to housing associations, a leading housing expert has said.
Simon Brooks, director of policy with the Clúid housing association, said the associations would refurbish the homes and let them to households on waiting lists.
He said many of these dwellings had fallen into such disrepair that the local authorities that owned them could not afford to make them habitable. This when there were almost 100,000 households on local authority waiting lists, was “a huge waste of resources”.
Mr Brooks was addressing a conference in the Aviva stadium in Dublin hosted by the homelessness charity Focus Ireland and opened by Jan Sullivan, Minister of State for Housing and Planning.
“The main reason these dwellings are lying vacant is that they require a lot of upgrading, some an awful lot. It is estimated the average cost of repairing them would be somewhere around €15,000 per dwelling, which most local authorities just don’t have to spend on one house.
“If these were all repaired, refurbished and made habitable, and 3,500 people were taken out of private-rented properties where they are getting rent allowance, it could save the State €20 million a year.”
Mr Brooks called on local authorities to identify vacant dwellings in need of significant upgrading and to inform interested housing associations.
“The housing associations would then raise the money to repair them, the local authority would transfer ownership to the housing associations, and households from its housing list would move into the dwellings.
“There will be objections to a proposal like this. Some local authorities will see it as a transfer of their stock, a reduction in their stock. But the biggest transfer of local authority housing stock has already happened under tenant-purchase schemes. But the alternative at the moment is that these homes remain empty.”
He said Dublin City Council was already working with Clúid on a “small number of properties”. Clúid was repairing them with a view to taking them over to let to households on the council’s waiting list.
“We’re hoping it can be seen as a pilot scheme that might be extended further if it was seen as an attractive option.”