Councillors take up to 7 months to re-let vacant social housing

Cáit Caden

Since Taoiseach Leo Varadkar declared the housing crisis to be a national crisis, several protest were organised including activists sleeping in vacant houses. Image Credit: The Irish Sun

Thousands of local authority homes were left vacant by the end of 2017 which councillors take approximately seven months to re-let.

As much as 3,600 social homes across the State’s 31 local authorities were empty by the end of last year which indicates “substantial reductions in average re-letting times,” from previous years according to a report done by council watchdog: The National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC).

“I wouldn’t know why that is,” said Cllr. and Sinn Féin  Deputy Mayor Cathal King when asked why it takes 28.9 weeks on average for councillors to re-let vacant social housing.

Earlier this year Taoiseach Leo Varadkar declared the level of homelessness with the housing crisis is a “national emergency” as numbers reached the threshold of roughly 10,000.

The majority of people included in this figure are living in emergency accommodation and housing provided by friends and family in comparison to the minority that are sleeping rough, according to figures from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Labour spokesperson for housing TD Jan O’Sullivan called the amount of social housing vacancies “totally unacceptable” and said Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has to “take control of this situation.”

Dublin City Council, Ireland’s largest local authority, gave a statement in response to the report which argued that the figures were exaggerated and that “Dublin City Council has successfully kept its vacant properties at any given time during 2018 below 2pc.”

“The turnaround for our locality is less than a percentage,” said King who added that his local authority in Dublin had the “lowest vacancy rate” of 0.4 per cent.

The report showed that rural counties such as Leitrim with 5.86 per cent, Longford 4.78 per cent and Donegal with 4.39 per cent had the highest vacancy rate in the country.

“We have to look at those local authorities which are actually able to bring houses back into use quickly and see what are they doing,” said Director of Advocacy for Focus Ireland Mike Allen.

Allen believes “perverse incentives” have entered the system lately.

Allen said that these properties can be classed as voids if left too long to be renovated by councillors.

When enough time passes “the department of housing will pay for it to be renovated and also the department of housing will say that they’re wonderful for bringing a void back into use,” according to Allen who added that this would save councils having to use their own resources to do this.

By Cáit Caden

Image Credit: The Irish Sun