€108,000 to fix council house for new rental

Cork County Hall

It cost Cork County Council over €108,000 to fix up a vacant house to a standard which permitted it to be rented to a new tenant.

The cost is detailed in a report from the local authority’s housing directorate which focuses on the cost and time it takes to refurbish vacant properties.

No details are provided of why one house required so much work or where it was. However, the report says that, among other things, the council had to carry out wall insulation, new heating, wiring, and plumbing, and guttering, and provide a new kitchen and bathroom.

The report says that, in 2015, the council refurbished 229 vacant properties. The following year the figure was 118 and last year it was 149.

In 2015, the highest number of refurbishments were carried out in the Kanturk/Mallow municipal district with 45. There were 43 in the West Cork municipal district and 40 in the Charleville/Fermoy municipal district.

The following year, the highest was in the West Cork municipal district, at 30, followed by 20 in the Charleville/Fermoy district.

Last year, the Kanturk/Mallow municipal district had the most with 42 turnarounds, with Cobh/Glanmire municipal district next with 25.

Maurice Manning, head of the council’s housing directorate, said significant progress had been made in getting vacant houses back on stream in the last three years and currently less than 2% of its housing stock was vacant.

He said the lowest spend on refurbishing a vacant house was €1,731 because it only required checks on electrical and plumbing systems and to be cleaned.

Figures for 2016 show the average cost of refurbishing a vacant house was €13,453. In the same year, the average turnaround time was 16.78 weeks.

Mr Manning said the council uses its own staff to refurbish vacant houses in the west Cork and north Cork divisions, but uses contractors in the south Cork division, covering towns including Youghal, Midleton, Cobh, Glanmire, Blarney, Carrigaline, Ballincollig, Kinsale, Bandon, and Macroom.

As of January 8, the county council introduced new procedures to classify vacant properties and provide target times for refurbishment.

The target times range from two weeks for minor works and cleaning up to 78 weeks if the property has structural issues and needs significant redesign.

Independent councillor Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, who had sought the report, said that, as the average cost of refurbishment throughout the county was €13,453, it would take less than six years to recover the money, given that the average social housing rent is €200 per month.

“However, allocating social housing units also carries the benefit of savings in HAP/rental supports or the cost of emergency accommodation,” said Mr Ó Cadhla.

“The figures suggest that savings to council due to allocation of a void property will mean payback in less than two years, considering a minimum €660 monthly HAP support, excluding the €200 monthly income that will arise.”

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