CITY HALL is moving to tackle a number of vacant, boarded-up houses in four Mayfield housing estates which are drawing illegal dumping.
Contractors have been on site in recent days at Laggan Grove, Liffey Park, Shannon Lawn and Gweedore Avenue to refurbish a number of homes and return them to City Council’s housing stock.
However, with the local authority boarding up houses once council tenants vacate in order to prevent anti-social behaviour, this has led to a proliferation of dumping on some of the properties, causing serious health risks for local residents.
The Echo visited the area with Councillor Mick Nugent (SF) who praised the local community and said the vast majority of residents take great pride in the area.
However, some houses with well-manicured gardens and painted walls can be found side by side with boarded-up homes which have been vacated for months.
In a number of the boarded-up units, the gardens are being used as dumping grounds with one particular house seeing an accumulation of rubbish that appears to have been building up for months.
Green areas and passage-ways through the estates are also being used by fly-tippers with bags of domestic waste, beer cans, old toys and a smashed TV freshly dumped between Laggan Grove and Liffey Park on the day The Echo visited last week.
The latest available figures from city council’s housing department shows that there were 100 vacant dwellings under repair in the south and north east areas — encompassing Mayfield and Lotamore — at the end of January.
This represents a tiny percentage of the council’s approximately 9,000 units across the city but the situation in the Laggan Grove, Liffey Park, Shannon Lawn and Gweedore Avenue estates highlights the effect just a few vacant houses can have on a small community.
The average turnaround time in the city for a home becoming vacant and being returned to use is currently 24 weeks.
Mr Nugent said locals in Mayfield have had enough of the small minority of people who are intent on flouting waste collection laws to save money by using the vacant properties as dumping grounds.
He has praised the council’s efforts to return the homes to use but has urged officials to take a stronger approach to prevent rubbish dumping around them.
“On a general basis, what I have been calling for is city council to tackle the issue of vacant homes,” he said.
“In the midst of a housing crisis, you would imagine this would be an easy win for the council. We also need the Government to be quicker to fund local authorities in getting those vacant houses available for people to move into them.
“With the introduction of the choice-based letting scheme, any house that comes up in any area, there is a high level of demand for it. Some areas are more popular than others. In this area of Mayfield, residents have been bringing to my attention that there are quite a number of vacant units in just four small housing estates.
“A lot of people in the area have children and would be more than happy to take these houses when they become available. Unfortunately, we can see that vacant houses bring rubbish dumping.
“Within the perimeter of the vacant houses and the green areas, you can see that there is rubbish dumped and that’s not good for the community.
“It’s a relatively small number of houses vacant in this area compared to the amount of units overall in the housing estates but there appears to be a high concentration of vacant units in these estates compared to others.
“There is a very small number of people that are dumping rubbish. This is a good community, with good people in it, but the local authority is doing them a disservice when they leave units vacant and sometimes allowing rubbish to build up.
“Saying that, you can see the city council has contractors out working on some of the houses and is making an effort to tackle vacancy and get these houses given out. The council deserves some credit in that regard.
“What I’d like to see is residents groups getting together and forming a residents collective so that when these issues arise, we can try and formulate a quicker response to these issues,” he added.
Director of housing at City Hall Brian Geaney said the local authority is taking a “proactive” approach to vacant houses and responds to reports of dumping as soon as it can.
“Cork City Council has reduced the number of vacant houses to 1.36% of its existing total social housing stock, yielding 123 vacant units that are currently under repair out of a total stock of 9,051,” he said.
“The average length of vacancy is 24 weeks. A proactive approach is ongoing in the housing and community directorate to reduce this percentage further and to speed up the turn-around time, including an enhanced programme of preventative maintenance and tenant engagement.
“Given the age of some of the older housing stock, of course, it is challenging to accelerate turn-around times in such circumstances. This is a high priority ongoing issue which is top of the council’s agenda given the demand for social housing in the city and the council’s commitment to the Rebuilding Ireland programme,’’ he added.