A scheme which could help increase the population on the seven islands off West Cork cannot supply the social houses needed because it costs around 40% more to build homes on the islands than on the mainland.
Cork County Council is to write to Government departments seeking to have adjustments made to the Repair and Lease Scheme.
Under the scheme a person who owns a derelict building can get up to €40,000 to refurbish it and then lease it back to the local authority for a period of 15 to 20 years.
Sinn Féin councillor Paul Hayes said there were many derelict buildings which could be refurbished on the islands, but owners will not sign up to the scheme because building costs are far higher way more than on the mainland.
He told colleagues there were 42 applicants on the council’s housing waiting lists who had expressed a preference for living on the islands, but there were no houses for them.
Mr Hayes said it is vital that new blood is brought onto the islands to ensure their survival.
He said he and fellow councillors from West Cork had recently met with Islands Interagency Group representatives who had pointed out that people would like to apply for the Repair and Lease Scheme, but the cap is too low.
“It costs a lot more because builders have to factor in transporting construction equipment and material to the islands and they also have to factor in the possibility that their machinery will be trapped on them during bad weather,” said Mr Hayes.
“The current cap is totally inadequate. It could potentially be a great scheme if this cap was increased. It would help save schools on the islands and businesses.
“It’s unlikely that many council houses will be built on the islands, so we have to explore other ways of getting more houses into use. So the Repair and Lease Scheme is potentially the best vehicle to get houses. There are lots of older, empty houses on the islands that could be renovated, leased back to the council, and then allocated to needy families and individuals on the waiting list.”
Sinn Féin councillor Eoghan Jeffers supported his motion and said that in many cases even on the mainland €40,000 wouldn’t be enough to bring a derelict building up to a proper standard.
Independent councillor Danny Collins said it would make it more attractive to owners of derelict sites if the 15- to 20-year lease was reduced to 10 years.
“The cost of construction is going up the whole time and €40,000 isn’t enough any more,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Seamus McGrath.
Fine Gael councillor Mary Hegarty said that it costs the county council considerably more to maintain services on the islands because of transport costs and the Government should recognise this added expense when it comes to the cap on the Repair and Lease Scheme.
The mayor of County Cork, Patrick Gerard Murphy, supported the call and said the council would write to the Government departments involved in the scheme to point out the disadvantage islanders are under.
Council chief executive Tim Lucey also said there was a need for the Government to review the cap.
Frank O’Flynn of Fianna Fáil and Independent councillor Mary Linehan-Foley felt that the council should be doing more to advertise the scheme nas it would also help regenerate vacant properties in villages