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There are 177 council homes in Cork city that are currently vacant for repair.
There are 177 council homes in Cork city that are currently vacant for repair.

Give us the cash to fix up empty houses

NEW figures have revealed that 177 local authority houses in Cork city are lying vacant due to disrepair.

The vacant properties, during an unprecedented housing crisis when thousands of people are waiting for a home, are a direct result of funding cuts from central government, it has been claimed.

From a housing stock of 9,015 houses, Cork City Council had a total of 319 properties vacant at the end of May, a vacancy rate of 3.5%.

Of these 319 so-called “voids”, a number were newly vacant for assessment, while 38 were under offer, and 58 were scheduled for demolition or redevelopment.

But 177 houses were lying empty while awaiting repair work.

The figures have emerged even as 93 families, including 257 children, were being housed in emergency accommodation in Cork and Kerry at the end of July, according to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Councillor Thomas Gould said staffing was the main issue causing a delay in turning over houses in need of repair and called on Government to immediately make funds available to Cork City Council to employ more staff.

“Our funding levels for staff were cut during the downturn and are still at those levels,” he said.

The Cork North Central Sinn Féin councillor also said he had been calling for a designated task force to be set up within the maintenance department to ensure that housing stock is returned to circulation as quickly as possible.

“We could get that figure down to 50 if we had the adequate resources,” he said.

“On average, 15 houses are handed back to Cork City Council per month, and a lot of the housing stock is over 60 years old, and are sometimes in need of work. But if we had a dedicated team, we could make sure that voids were at an absolute minimum, especially in this time when the demand for housing is so high.”

Fianna Fáil Councillor Fergal Dennehy, also a member of Cork City Council’s housing committee, agreed that staff shortages are adding to the backlog.

“It’s a funding issue, and we’ve been pleading with central government to make more funds available,” he said.

However, repair work needs to be rationalised. Because of standardisation, there are houses that get gutted and then renovated,” he said.

“There may be other solutions, such as incentivising tenants to take out council loans for non- essential work like painting and minor repairs.

“Families often repaint houses themselves when they move in, so as long essentials like electricity, gas and water are taken care of, there’s no reason why some of these houses couldn’t be fast-tracked.

“With a housing stock of 9,015, the percentage of voids are low and Cork City Council has made strides in this,” Mr Dennehy said.

“Cork City Council don’t want voids.”

Meanwhile, the housing shortages are also impacting on students, with hundreds of inquiries being made to the CIT accommodation office, daily, from frantic students looking for a place to live this academic year.