Councils have 2,600 vacant homes

The Government has been accused of an “inexcusable” lack of leadership after it emerged that there are 2,600 vacant units across the country in council ownership, despite a mounting homelessness crisis.

Figures uncovered by Fianna Fáil spokesperson on environment and local government, Barry Cowen, found Cork City had the largest number of vacant council properties, at 424.

The information, gathered under Freedom of Information, also shows the vast majority of local authorities have cut back this year on the amount of money spent to refurbish properties, compared to 2014.

Homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry said: “It it is true, it is a disgrace and it would show that this issue is not a priority for this Government, despite what they say.”

[timgcap=Fr Peter McVerry]FrPeterMcVerryMarcOSullivan_large.jpg[/timg]

Mr Cowen said the figures illustrated a “lacklustre response to the housing crisis” by Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly. The figures show there were also 268 vacant council properties in Co Cork, 258 empty properties in Dublin City, 136 in Kerry, 113 in Roscommon and 121 in Sligo.

The housing crisis is most acute in Dublin and in other larger urban areas and Mr Cowen said: “It is sickening to think that there are a massive number of vacant housing units owned by local authorities sitting idle. This is at a time when social housing waiting lists are at historic highs and emergency homeless shelters are running out of space to accommodate the escalating crisis.

“Minister Alan Kelly is continually trying to reassure the public that he has a plan for dealing with the housing crisis. However the huge number of vacant housing units across the country shows that no such joined-up plan exists.”

Only five of the local authorities included in the figures published by Fianna Fáil have spent more money on refurbishment of properties this year than last year, Cork City among them. In some cases the spend is down dramatically: more than €500,000 in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown, almost €1m in Fingal and €1.7m in Donegal.

Mr Cowen said this was “senseless” and added: “These figures make it apparent just how completely inadequate the refurbishment funding allocated to local authorities has been. While there are over 2,612 housing units lying vacant, the minister made the disastrous decision to cut refurbishment funding available to local authorities. The cut amounted to a staggering €6.15m this year alone.”

[timgcap=Barry Cowen]BarryCowenFiannaFailEnvironmentSpokesperson_large.jpg[/timg]

Just this month the Government was criticised by councillors in Cork county after it emerged funding had only been provided for the refurbishment of 71 of 113 vacant council houses.

The revelation over the number of vacant houses came as the man who died sleeping rough near Dawson St in Dublin on Friday was named as Alan Murphy, originally from Kildare.

Mr Murphy, in his mid-30s, was found at 7am on Friday. His death has sparked fresh warnings from homeless support organisations about the risks faced by those sleeping rough.

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