Forced sale of repossessed 'shared ownership' homes to private sector a ‘scandal’

Cork County Council has been forced to sell homes owned by people in shared ownership schemes which were repossessed after they fell behind in their mortgage repayments.

The move was described by councillors as a scandal in the midst of one of the worst housing crises in the history of the State.

The councillors unanimously agreed to seek to have the legislation overhauled.

Sinn Féin councillor Melissa Mullane, who sought information on the number of repossessions, was told that up to mid 2013, the council was allowed by the Government to buy back such properties and use them for social housing.

However, since then, council officials said the Department of Environment had refused to allow the local authority purchase the properties, irrespective of whether they had a need for them or not, and insisted they were sold off to the private sector.

Since mid 2013, the council has repossessed 13 such properties.

Councillor Melissa Mullane
Councillor Melissa Mullane

Six had been abandoned by their owners, but the council still had to go through repossession procedures in the District Court to get title on them.

The other seven were repossessed due to non-payment of mortgages.

Nine have been sold to date or have a sale agreed deposit paid on them. The remaining four — two houses and two apartments — have yet to be sold.

Ms Mullane said the current situation was totally unacceptable, especially considering that more than 7,000 people were on the council’s housing waiting list.

She said the properties were originally council houses and should revert to the council.

“We should be given first option on these homes,” she said.

Her party colleague, Des O’Grady, said it was totally wrong as the council needed every house possible, while Sinn Féin’s Kieran McCarthy added “it beggars belief”.

Meanwhile, it emerged that the Department of Environment had told the council it could break the employment embargo to fill 21 senior positions required so it can build €80m worth of housing in the next two years.

But a report given to Mr O’Grady showed that just 11 of these positions had been filled to date. He said he was concerned that the hold up in appointments would delay the major housing scheme.

Fianna Fáil councillor Seamus McGrath agreed and said he knew of housing schemes “that were progressing very slowly” and one in Carrigaline which hadn’t even gone to the planning stage.

“I can’t see any substantial progress being made on housing schemes until 2018,” Mr McGrath added.

Chief executive Tim Lucey said the local authority had to start a lot of schemes from scratch as it had been barred from recruiting people for the past seven years.

Tim Lucey
Tim Lucey 

Mr Lucey said that some of the recruitment delays were down to them being within national competitions and these took time to complete.

However, he insisted this would not delay the completion of the planned housing schemes.

Mr O’Grady said it was “very discouraging” to hear that on average it took a year and three months for the local authority to make a council house fit for use by a new tenant.

He said this was the longest turnaround time for any local authority in the country.

Mr McGrath said it simply wasn’t good enough and the council is losing huge rental income as a result.


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