Two-year delays in turning around some vacant local authority homes 

Cork City took 63 weeks on average, and Cork County took 53 weeks. Sligo County Council was the worst at 139 weeks.
Two-year delays in turning around some vacant local authority homes 

Cork City took 63 weeks on average to get properties re-occupied by the end of 2019, although recent figures have shown this has worsened.

It is taking more than two years for councils to turn around vacant homes for new tenants, despite more than 60,000 people on housing waiting lists.

A new report by the Local Government Audit service, based on details from 31 city and county councils, also reveals there were almost 5,000 vacant social housing units across the country just before the outbreak of the pandemic.

While the average turnaround time to get the properties re-occupied across the country was 46 weeks at that point, in Dublin City Council it was taking 104 weeks — or two years — to get new tenants into homes.

Cork City took 63 weeks on average, and Cork County took 53 weeks. Sligo County Council was the worst at 139 weeks.

Out of all of the 4,754 vacant social housing units across the country at the end of 2019, a quarter were classified as awaiting refurbishment prior to re-letting, while another 10% of properties were pending either demolition or regeneration. Just 9% were classified as ready to let — a total of 421 units.

The report also reveals:

  • 306 council homes were in need of major refurbishment;
  • 127 were long-term voids awaiting funding before they could be re-let;
  • 65 vacant units were pending sale;
  • 54 homes were classified as derelict, while 33 council properties were subject to legal proceedings;
  • 29 were vacant as a result of being turned down by at least two prospective tenants.

Finally, 26 properties were vacant because there was no demand for them.

Cork City Council claimed that 101 of its vacant properties — 23% of the total — were ready to be occupied with tenants, but over half of these had been awaiting tenancy for over 14 months, while Cork County Council said 92 of its vacant properties — 42% of the total — were either ready to let or under offer.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin (right) speaking at the launch of the party’s Alternative Housing Budget. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin (right) speaking at the launch of the party’s Alternative Housing Budget. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said the target turnaround time to replace tenants should be around 10 weeks, although he acknowledged that homes that required refurbishment could take considerably longer in certain cases, while the proportion of vacant housing stock at any one time should be no more than 2%, and ideally 1%.

“Local authorities need to be given the staff and the finances to meet those targets,” said Mr Ó Broin. 

If they don’t meet those targets, they need to be held to account."

Although previous audits had recommended a series of actions by councils to minimise the turnaround time of vacant housing units, only half of properties are inspected in advance of existing tenants vacating them.

“This may be linked to the lack of advance notice received from tenants,” the LGAS acknowledged.

The report also reveals that councils spent an average of €20,767 on refurbishing vacant properties before new tenants could take up residence, ranging from €6,932 in Meath County Council to €56,443 in Louth County Council.

Cork City Council recently provided figures that show that, since the figures were provided to LGAS, the situation in Cork City has worsened, with properties taking 64 weeks to be turned around as of last August.

Last June, housing minister Darragh O'Brien said the most recent summary conducted in November 2020 showed 61,880 households were assessed as qualified for and being in need of social housing support — down almost 10% on the figure in the previous assessment from June 2019.

However, his department's annual target for social housing delivery this year is 28,550 — and the figure achieved for the first half of the year is below the rate required, at a total of 11,746, although typically there is a surge in delivery in the last quarter of any given year.

Recently published figures from the Department of Housing show 2,433 new local authority builds in the first six months of this year.

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