A CORK CITY councillor says the Government needs to tackle underlying issues which are contributing to the problem of dereliction, and work with local authorities who best understand these issues.
Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy made the comments following the announcement of a new grant of up to €30,000 for the purchase of a derelict property.
Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien is progressing a new Croí Conaithe (Towns) scheme which will assist people who buy derelict properties to renovate and live in. The full details of the scheme, due to be announced in the first quarter of 2022, have yet to be finalised. However, the objective will be that those who buy a vacant house will be able to secure funding through their local authority towards renovation and other costs.
The Department said the new grant will be part of a multi-pronged approach to tackle unoccupied and dilapidated buildings across the country.
Mr McCarthy said anything that helps tackle the issue of dereliction is welcome and a step in the right direction, but the ‘red tape’ issue of tackling dereliction needed to be addressed.
“Dereliction is a deep rooted problem, and it will take a lot of effort [to] pull up those roots and I would plead with the Minister to work with Cork City Council [on the issue]”.
Mr McCarthy said Cork City Council was “really struggling” with the problem and said the Department really needs to ‘open the box’ in relation to the complications of the ongoing issue.
The councillor outlined that compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) can take years and reiterated that the red tape, legislation and processes surrounding dereliction needed to be streamlined and tackled.
Mr McCarthy also questioned how far €30,000 would actually go in relation to a derelict property.
“I’m sure it would fix up a room or two, but that is about it. I don’t think the Minister is really putting his hand on the red tape and pulling it apart.”
The city councillor added: “I would appeal to the Department to talk to Cork City Council about their challenges and issues in relation to dereliction, as the second largest local authority in the state.
“There needs to be a targeted approach, the enthusiasm is welcome, but a targeted approach would be appreciated.”
Anois Agency duo Frank O’Connor and Jude Sherry, who have been campaigning and raising awareness on the issue of dereliction for the past few years, also cautiously welcomed the development of the new grant, saying the devil would be in the detail.
“In general, it is good news,” Mr O’Connor said.
“We are pleased something is happening, but it does raise more questions than answers at the moment.”
Ms Sherry said €30,000 could make a big difference but it was very important how it was administered.
“How will the derelict properties be defined?”
They said that the dereliction register was not up to date and while there were a lot of properties currently unoccupied for a lengthy period, many were not listed as derelict and they were unsure what the qualifying criteria would be.
“It needs to be approached strategically,” Mr O’Connor said.
The duo said they would await the detail of the grant to determine whether they felt it would be of significant benefit to solving the problem and said ultimately it could work well if other measures were also introduced such as a vacant home tax.
“This grant would work well with a vacant home tax, it would make it more beneficial to sell a property than to hoard and the tax could actually fund the grant.”
The Anois Agency pair also highlighted the administration and paperwork trail associated with the new initiative and asked if it would fall on the local authority to process.