City Hall chief: Opening up derelict sites won’t solve homelessness

City Hall chief: Opening up derelict sites won’t solve homelessness
Numbers 15 and 16, Kyle Street, are on the derelict sites register.

OPENING up derelict and vacant buildings in the city is not a panacea for homelessness and the housing crisis, City Hall’s chief executive has said.

Ann Doherty was responding to comments from Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould, who has expressed frustration that more is not being done in Cork to trigger compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) on landlords who are sitting on idle properties.

The council currently has 102 derelict sites listed on its database with another nine in the process of being placed on the register.

Derelict site penalties — levied at 3% of market value — owed to the local authority by landlords so far this year have amounted to €629,700, but only €144,726 of this has been paid.

The council has acquired only two derelict properties this year.

However, Ms Doherty said the matter is not as simple as opening the doors of properties to allow homeless people in and national procedures around derelict and vacant properties must be followed.

Chief executive of Cork City Council, Ann Doherty.
Chief executive of Cork City Council, Ann Doherty.

“It’s very easy to say the answer to all our problems is to CPO everything and just put people into it,” said Ms Doherty.

“A lot of those properties are absolutely derelict. It is about how we bring them back into productive use. There is a process around dereliction.”

Ms Doherty also defended the council’s vacancy rate on social housing stock which is currently just under 3.5% of 10,110 properties based on figures to July of this year.

“We have one of the biggest housing stocks in the country outside of Dublin. We have over 10,000 houses so we will always have vacancy,” said Ms Doherty.

“I think that it is unfair and incorrect to say Cork City Council has more vacant housing. That is untrue.

“I would challenge any housing authority in the world to have the same tight management of its vacancy,” she said.

However, Mr Gould said the council’s efforts in providing housing and accommodation to homeless families are being undermined by national funding.

“There have been 459 unique individuals [presenting for homeless services] in the month of August.

“Slowly but surely our vacant and derelict dwellings are increasing. On the northside and the southside, you see good houses boarded up, yet there are people in emergency accommodation.

“People are asking me why families are living in hotels, B&Bs, and tents when there are properties all over the city that private landlords have left lying idle, boarded up and derelict.

“I want us to take aggressive action on these landlords to CPO these properties and turn them into housing and apartments and get them rented out.

“We could actually fix the housing crisis in Cork.

“There is great work being done by the housing executive but it’s only a drop in the ocean,” added Mr Gould.

More than 150 new applications were made for housing in the city in July.

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