Simon Coveney: Need to speed up council houses turnover

Housing Minister, Simon Coveney, says there needs to be a faster turnover of Council housing stock, and that vacated council houses should not be left sitting void for anything longer than ‘a number of weeks.’

“We’ve made huge progress in relation to the voids issue in the last two years, in Dublin, Cork and Galway,” Minister Coveney said.

“Last year there were 3,600 voids brought back into use and the Government put a special fund in place for Cork City Council and the Dublin councils to actually make sure that that happened. So the percentage of voids in terms of council houses has reduced dramatically, and to be fair to the management and the councillors in Cork City Council, they’ve done a good job on that,” he told Cork 96FM’s ‘Opinion Line’.

“That doesn’t mean we should relax about it — we need to get even better. What we would like to agree with Councils is a set timeframe whereby houses would be unoccupied, between two tenants, moving from one tenancy to another,” he said.

He added “there should be no house unnecessarily vacant for a period of time beyond a number of weeks, as far as I’m concerned”.

Minister Coveney said it is not “his style to be beating Councils with a stick” to ensure a faster turnover of empty houses, but that he wants to work with local authorities to make it happen: “I need to make sure that they have the resources to be able to deal with it, and then we need to have an agreement at very senior management level to have a sense of urgency to get voids back into use faster. To be fair, that sense of urgency is there in Cork at the moment, but that’s only been the case for the last 18 months or so, and I think we’re making good progress. But we need to continue to do that.”

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney

Minister Coveney said he also believes councils should only sell houses ‘on a very limited basis’ given the pressing need for social housing.

Minister Coveney made the comment following the revelation that Cork County Council sold houses that were bought by the public under joint ownership schemes, but subsequently repossessed. The local authority claimed it had “no choice” but to sell the repossessed houses due to instructions from the Department of Local Government.

However, the Department later told the Irish Examiner it never issued such an order.

“Any sale of social housing needs to happen on a very limited basis until we get the stock up. We have about 140,000 social houses in Ireland, that figure needs to be closer to 200,000,” Minister Coveney said when asked about the Irish Examiner story.

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