COUNCILLORS have voiced concerns over the volume of vacant living spaces above commercial premises across the county, and are to explore ways to promote the use of such spaces.
Cork County Council is set to enlist the help of estate agents to better promote a scheme aimed at encouraging more people to live over shops in towns and villages.
Cllr Ben Dalton O’Sullivan highlighted how owners of commercial properties in towns in the county often have vacant upstairs space above their ground-floor retail space.
He said he believed these would be appropriate to convert into one bedroomed apartments, and he asked the local authority to introduce a housing scheme that would help facilitate this.
“It’s extremely difficult for single people to get housing,” he said. “We’re in the biggest housing crisis we have ever faced.”
Fianna Fáil Cllr Joe Carrol agreed that the amount of vacant properties in county towns was “very noticeable”.
The council said that there are currently two schemes aimed at bringing such spaces back into use namely; the Buy and Renew scheme and the Repair and Lease scheme, with the latter being the “most appropriate scheme” for these over shop units.
Under the scheme, funding up to a maximum of €40,000 is made available for repairs, on condition that the property is made available to be used as social housing for a period of five years under either a direct lease or rental availability with the local authority.
Council members heard the uptake on the scheme has been quite low with Fianna Fáil Cllr Pat Hayes saying that while the figure of €40,000 is “substantial”, it is actually “quite small” given that it “takes a lot of investment to get a property up to the right standard.”
Cllr Danny Collins said he felt people don’t know about the scheme, while others suggested that the issue of matched funding from financial institutions was an issue.
Councillors also suggested that it may be beneficial to write to estate agents to highlight the scheme to them.
The council’s Deputy Chief Executive, Mr James Fogarty said he believed the scheme needed to be discussed more and suggested that it might be beneficial for councillors to write to the Department to highlight some of the issues discussed, and to request an increase in funding.
Cllr Dalton O’Sullivan said he thinks it would be a “very easy scheme to push” and that he would like to see a letter sent to estate agents, and with rates bills to advise people about the scheme.
The council’s deputy chief executive officer, James Fogarty, suggested that councillors write to the department to get the grant increased.