Union hits out at vacant homes plan

One of the country’s largest trade unions has called on a local authority to scrap plans to lease some of the vacant council homes it cannot afford to repair to voluntary housing groups.

Impact last night became the second union to speak out against Cork City Council’s proposal which first emerged two weeks ago.

The council has a total of 8,726 houses, with 305 voids — house currently vacant awaiting maintenance.

Against the backdrop of reduced maintenance funding, city officials have been exploring ways of tackling the rising number of voids.

Socialist Party Cllr Mick Barry told the last council meeting that he understands that up to 70 council houses could be leased out to voluntary housing agencies.

There are also plans to sell a handful of vacant homes privately and plough the sale proceeds back into housing maintenance.

The Operative Plasterers’ and Allied Trades Society of Ireland was the first to speak out against the move, describing it as the privatisation of a vital local government service.

The union’s spokesman, Barry Murphy, urged the council to seek a loan from central government, and use the cash to hire local construction workers to do the repair work.

City manager Tim Lucey rejected the privatisation claim, and said that the alternative options will be of benefit to the council and tenants, and that collaboration was the way forward.

But last night, Impact, which represents city council staff, called on Cork City Council to scrap the leasing and sale proposals, and retain social housing services in the interests of service users.

Impact official Donal Guerin said local government has a long and proud history in the provision of social housing, and there is a real concern now that government policy seems committed to removing local authorities from the direct delivery of social housing.

“The council staff in social housing have a deep knowledge and understanding of social housing provision,” he said. “What we lack are adequate funds to deliver the service.

“Impact supports the call for an application to central government for funding to carry out the necessary repairs to existing vacant housing units and also that the council actively explores the option of accessing a loan to carry out these repairs. Any rental income arising from letting out vacant properties would enable the local authority to repay such a loan facility.”

No-one home

* Number of local authority homes under, or awaiting repair, in Cork City:

* 2010 — 249 voids

* 2011 — 268 voids

* 2012 — 295 voids

* 2013 — 305 voids


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