Council takes two years to revamp vacant units

Cork City Council is taking nearly two years to renovate council houses, spending more than any other local authority on upgrading its housing stock.

Up to 571 rundown council houses were refurbished by Cork City Council in 2014 and 2015 as it took, on average, almost two years to renovate a house.

City Hall figures from the end of last year confirmed 93 weeks was the time involved to renovate council houses and, at the end of 2015, a total of 424 houses had remained vacant.

Each council house in Cork costs an average of €31,019 to refurbish, according to the local authority.

A city council spokesman said: “The temporary increase in the average vacancy time for properties re-let is many of the properties had been vacant for a long period of time.”

In Dublin City, it took just 20 weeks to turn around vacant houses for re-letting while, in Fingal and Dún Laoghaire councils, that figure stood at approximately just 12 weeks each.

In Dublin City, it cost a little under €19,986 to renovate a council house while that figure was under €9,000 in Dún Laoighaire-Rathdown. In Fingal, house renovations cost €14,258 on average.

In Co Kerry, it takes about 42 weeks to renovate and turn around a house for new tenants — at a cost of €10,521 each.

Some of Cork City’s vacant houses will be demolished and replaced under the Knocknaheeny Regeneration Scheme.

According to a Cork City Council spokesman, refurbishment costs are high as the houses have to be “returned in a lettable condition to a new tenant”. Improved energy efficiency features also had to be put in place as council houses have to reach a particular level to “ensure the property was compliant with statutory regulations”.

The work is completed by both council staff and through procurement contracts.

Cork North Central Cllr Thomas Gould said houses were costing so much to renovate as Cork City Council stock was not being maintained properly.

“The council maintenance staff only have a budget to do emergency repairs and not rolling maintenance so that means that the quality of the housing stock is deteriorating and, when a house comes up to re-rent, it can need new windows, doors, insulation, a total overhaul,” he said. “We need rolling maintenance and a fund to fast-track renovations so we catch up with the Dublin councils’ turnaround time.”

Cork County Council, meanwhile, has made progress in clearing its void stock in recent months. In April this year, 256 Cork County Council homes were vacant. The National Oversight and Audit Commission says, at the end of last year, 4.56% of Cork County Council’s 7,219 directly-provided properties were vacant. It compared to 5.03% among Cork City Council’s 8,761 houses. The highest rate of voids was Roscommon (9.31%) while Dublin City was 6.29%.


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