Social housing organisations yesterday said the fact that 3,500 local authority dwellings are lying empty for more than a month around the country was “a huge waste”.
The figure was revealed on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland and prompted claims from the Clúid Housing Association that the vacant stock, if used, could save the State €20m.
Some local authorities have close to 10% of its housing stock lying vacant at a time when almost 100,000 people around the country are on housing waiting lists, and the Government is spending close to €500m on rent supplements.
Mike Allen, director of advocacy at Focus Ireland, said the figures were “a disgrace” at a time when there was insufficient housing for those who need it, particularly in larger areas such as Dublin.
In Cork, one property in the suburb of Donnybrook has been vacant for more than four years, while 100 council properties have been vacant for more than six months.
Clúid’s head of policy, Simon Brooke, said of the 3,500 vacant properties: “This represents the entire social housing stock of about one and half average county councils. It is a huge waste of resources. If you housed 3,500 households who are currently receiving rent supplement in these empty properties, the State could save up to €20m per year.
“In many cases, the properties are empty because they are in disrepair, but the local authority does not have enough money to do the necessary repairs. One of the solutions to this problem is a partnership between the local authority and a housing association such as Clúid. Under a new funding model, housing associations can use a small government loan to leverage much larger loans from financial institutions.”
Responding to the figures, Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan said that, in some cases, properties were vacant as part of natural turnaround, when one tenant leaves and another is moving in.
However, she added: “We need to address all of the issues. I am not happy that there are so many empty houses.”
Ms O’Sullivan said some properties were vacant due to a lack of funds for refurbishment — a situation that could be addressed with the €15m secured in the budget for councils to fix up dwellings in need of repair, particularly in areas of high demand.
She said 3.5% of housing stock is vacant and she was “pushing” local authorities to lower that figure, and added that regeneration projects would help alleviate the situation.
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