Cork County Council struggling to buy second-hand properties

An ever-growing population and a decrease in the amount of vacant homes for sale on the open market is making it more difficult for Cork County Council to buy secondhand properties to accommodate people on its housing waiting list.

A report released by council officials has shown the number of vacant houses and apartments in the county stood at 27,161 in 2011, but dropped to 23,852 by the end of last year — a decrease of almost 14%.

The population over the same period increased by nearly 17,000 to 416,547 and projections show it will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.

Council officials said the problem was that many of the vacant units were in areas where there was not a housing need but, despite this, they hope to acquire 119 secondhand properties by the end of this year.

The total housing stock in the county, both private and local authority-owned, rose from 172,746 units in 2011 to 175,046 by the end of 2016, which represented a 1.32% rise.

Meanwhile, on a more positive note, council officials say they are making major progress in building houses and also acquiring finished ones from developers through “turnkey” agreements.

This year, it is expected that more than €20m will be spent on building new social housing in the county.

Senior officials said they were “slightly ahead” of their target to have 1,217 new houses built in the county between 2105 and this year.

The council is also beefing up its repair programmes for vacant local authority houses in an effort to ensure they are re-let as quickly as possible.

Officials said that, in the North Cork region, the council owns 2,339 housing units of which 66 are currently unoccupied as they are being upgraded for re-letting to new tenants.

Of these, 19 are completed and are awaiting the handover of keys to new occupiers.

Contractors approved by the council have now to sign ‘service level agreements’ to ensure they finish off properties within a reasonable timeframe.

The officials said they are awaiting approval from the Government to spend approximately €4.5m making their own housing stock throughout the county more energy-efficient this year.

The work will include more energy-efficient heating systems, draught-proofing of windows and doors, putting insulating foam into cavity walls, and providing improved ventilation.

In an effort to rejuvenate derelict properties, the local authority has also introduced a new scheme.

It is offering owners up to €40,000 to do up their properties and lease them back to the council for use by council tenants.

It is mainly aimed at owners who have not got the money to do up their properties.

In return for a 10- or 20-year lease, the owner gets rent paid to them and then enters into an agreement to use that money to repay the council for the improvement works it pays for.

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