COUNTY councillors have delayed the sale of a small local authority-owned house in Douglas on the private market amid interest from a charitable organisation in turning it into housing for an elderly person.
Last month, County Hall was asked by councilllors to explain why it is selling a house in the heart of Douglas Village which is valued at €84,000.
The house, at 17A Douglas West, is listed on the local authority’s ‘disposal of property’ list but councillors in the Ballincollig-Carrigaline municipal district have blocked the sale pending more information from County Council officials.
The house is believed to be too small to meet requirements for social housing and it is in poor condition.
A spokesperson for the local authority said: “Cork County Council advise that as the property could not be adapted for social housing use it was agreed to place it on the market.”
However, several councillors expressed their confusion as to why the council was selling off the property in the midst of a housing crisis and also queried the valuation of the property in the heart of a desirable area.
Deirdre Forde (FG) said the property could be retained and used to house an elderly person and she has been contacted by a charitable organisation interested in converting it for that purpose.
“This is council property,” she said.
“I understood there was someone living there until some time ago and yet the condition of it is woeful. For the council to let any of their properties to get into such a condition is so neglectful.”
Jim Molloy, head of municipal district operations at Cork County Council, said the local authority has little input into the condition of the property as they could not enter it once a tenant was living there.
“This is a small bedsit. The engineer’s report has determined that it isn’t fit for social housing. The fact that somebody was living there still doesn’t mean that it is fit for purpose.
“The fact that it is council-owned doesn’t mean there was free access into the building. If the person living there isn’t reporting issues and doesn’t want people to visit, nobody will get in,” he added.
Marcia D’Alton (IND) said her issue with the sale was not related to the size or the condition of the site but its value and stated its sale has been agreed for €75,000 by auctioneers dealing with the property.
“I do not support this disposal,” she added and went on to state that she would be in favour of Ms Forde’s suggestion that the charitable organisation be engaged with to see if their use of the property is viable.
Seamus McGrath (FF) said the charitable organisation should be allowed “space” to see if there is an opportunity to take the property on, while Mary Rose Desmond (FF) said she felt the disposal of property process did not provide enough information to councillors ahead of them rubberstamping sales.
Ballincollig-Carrigaline municipal district officer Kevin O’Regan said the sale was based on an engineer’s report and that it was the decision of the council’s director of housing that it could not be adapted and it was in the best interests to dispose of it.
“The procedure [for disposal of property] is set out in the Local Government Act 2001 that members’ role in a disposal is confined to agreeing to dispose of or not agreeing to dispose of. That is my understanding of the legislation.
“There is nothing in the legislation about having discussions prior to a disposal in terms of potential uses or otherwise.
“It has to be on the open market because it has to obtain the best value for the council. When you look at properties that have been sold across the road from it, they went for under €100,000 and one of the larger ones went for €145,000. This property is substantially smaller than those.
“Value wise, the Council has complied with what it is obliged to do,” he added.
The matter has now been deferred until the council’s housing department speaks with the charity involved.