Sinn Féin wants taskforce on 'void' housing units in Cork 

The National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy 2018-2021 has failed Cork, Sinn Féin said as it unveiled its plan on Thursday.
Sinn Féin wants taskforce on 'void' housing units in Cork 

Sinn Féin said the vacant site levy was brought in to encourage landowners to utilise their empty land and build houses. 

A taskforce dedicated to making so-called void housing units liveable needs to be established by Cork's local authority, while levies on vacant properties need to be more than doubled.

That is according to Sinn Féin's newly unveiled housing strategy for vacant homes, which the party claims would "put an end to houses sitting empty for months, and years, on end".

The National Vacant Housing Reuse Strategy 2018-2021 has failed Cork, Sinn Féin said as it unveiled its plan on Thursday.

The national strategy was unveiled by the Department of Housing in 2018 in a bid to tackle vacancies, and includes giving €50,000 to each of the country's local authorities for a dedicated vacancy officer. 

Local Government and Planning Minister Peter Burke said last month in Cork that just three of 31 local authorities have appointed a vacancy officer, despite funds being ringfenced for the job.

Despite each local authority preparing an action plan to tackle housing vacancy, the Department of Housing does not "hold data on the amount of derelict housing units in the State," Mr Burke also admitted last month.

Sinn Féin said the vacant site levy was brought in to encourage landowners to utilise their empty land and build houses. 

"It would appear that it is failing miserably in this attempt. The levy is legislated at 7% of the market value of a site. Sinn Féin has called for this levy to be increased to 15%. The levies collected in Cork in 2020 were nowhere near 7% of the total site values," the party said in its strategy document.

It said the repair and lease scheme, to encourage landlords to repair vacant houses if they lease them out as social houses for five years, has seen little progress. 

Void homes, houses without a social tenant, are taking an average of 49 weeks to turn around in Cork City Council, compared to a national average of around 28 weeks, Sinn Féin said.

Red tape is stifling the local authority's ability to turn around the voids, it said.

A dedicated taskforce in Cork City Council needs to be established, the party said, with regular maintenance before voids become uninhabitable. 

"Instead of addressing repairs on an emergency basis, preventative maintenance audits should be conducted regularly. 

"This would reduce the works needed when a social house becomes empty and ultimately reduce voids," the party's vacancy document said.

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