CALLS have been made for more to be spent on the refurbishment of void social housing units after recent figures show Cork City Council was this year allocated Government funding to remediate less than a quarter of its properties in need of work.
In a response to a parliamentary question, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said the council was allocated funding to remediate 144 properties this year. The latest data from the council shows that, as of April, there were 587 void social housing units in its stock.
Mr O’Brien said the management and maintenance of local authority housing stock, “are matters for each individual local authority” — but that the department “provides annual funding support to local authorities in preparing vacant units for re-let under the Voids Programme”.
“Cork City Council has received an allocation of €1,584,000 to remediate 144 properties and are progressing a programme of works based on this allocation."
From 2014 to 2021, some €261m was recouped to local authorities under the Voids Programme, which funded the return to use of 18,527 properties nationwide, the minister said.
This year, he said, funding of €25m is being made available to support the refurbishment of around 2,273 vacant properties nationally.
Commenting on the response to his parliamentary question, Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould said the funding allocation is inadequate.
“The latest CE report for April 2022 from Cork City Council shows that there are 587 so-called voids in Cork City Council stock,” said Mr Gould. “Every single one of these could be a home for the thousands of people on the social housing waiting list. Instead, the Government’s unambitious plan is to only bring 144 of these back into council stock.
“The Government have been promising a preventative maintenance scheme for years — this would significantly reduce the spend on vacant council properties because it would mean all properties maintain a high standard.
£Relets could happen quicker and in a more streamlined process. Instead, the numbers of vacant properties are growing and the numbers in need of a home are growing.
“The reality is that this Government aren’t investing the money that is desperately needed into our local authorities and because of this, councils cannot maintain the stock they have and cannot relet stock.”
He added that the process for turning around void units needs to be expedited.
“Local authorities like Cork City Council should be able to renovate the houses as soon as they become empty and then the department should reimburse them for the cost,” Mr Gould told The Echo.
“It cuts out all the red tape and all the bureaucracy. The minute every house becomes available it should be done up immediately.
“We’re in the middle of a housing crisis, the houses are there, they’re built, all we need to do is go in and carry out the necessary works and reallocate them.”