IT is ‘absolutely essential’ for an increased amount of vacant sites to be brought back into use if Cork City is to prosper in the years ahead, a Sinn Féin TD has said.
Cork South Central TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said that given the projected growth of Cork, it is more vital than ever before that every usable home be brought back into the housing market.
“We want to see significant population growth and some of that will happen in the north and south docks, but there’s only so much can happen by way of sprawl into suburban areas, and a crucial component of ensuring Cork can thrive is ensuring that we bring as many people as possible, families and businesses, back into the historic spine of the city,” he said.
Mr Ó Laoghaire made his comments at the launch of Sinn Féin Cork’s Vacant Homes Strategy, which took place at Blackpool Community Centre today.
He described the strategy as “very progressive” and one which could make a “significant difference”.
According to the latest GeoView Residential Buildings Report published by GeoDirectory and EY Economic Advisory, Cork’s vacancy rate in June 2021 was 4.1%. However, some areas of Cork have more vacant units than others.
“It’s not hard to think of those areas,” said Mr Ó Laoghaire. “It’s your Blackpools, it’s your North and South Main Streets, it’s your Barrack Streets, and it’s other areas like that.
“It’s absolutely essential to the prosperity of the future of our city and for the growth of our city and for the thriving our city that we bring so many of those sites back into use, as housing in particular and also as businesses in some instances.”
He said that while progress has been made, there are still “far too many units that are vacant and voids that need to be tackled”.
“If I was to underline all of the proposals with one central philosophy, it is that council need to be more aggressive and more assertive where it comes to derelict sites and where it comes to idle sites,” he said.
The party is calling for the Vacant Site Levy (VSL), currently set at 7% of the market value of a site, to be increased to 15%.
“There must be a proper deterrent to stop landlords or property owners or developers leaving vacant homes lying idle,” said Cork North-Central TD Thomas Gould.
The report also states that the council “needs more powers to utilise the existing levy” and calls for increased use of compulsory purchase order powers by the council.
“Our plan would see the Department of Housing working with Cork City Council to get families and individuals into these vacant houses.
“We would see social houses renovated and given out as soon as they become vacant in a fast-tracked voids scheme,” said Mr Gould.
“We would fund local authorities to conduct five-year rolling preventative maintenance audits on all social housing stock. We would conduct a complete audit of all vacant stock and set multi-annual targets for the return of these.
“We would work with the Departments of Health and Housing to bring some homes in the Fair Deal scheme back into use in a fair and equitable way.”
The report states vacant homes are an “eyesore and an insult to those trapped in the housing crisis” and a “magnet for anti-social behaviour”.
“Each of these potential homes in Cork City and county could have children playing in the back garden, dinners cooked in the kitchen and a family growing together under the roof,” said Mr Gould.