Homes idle for 75 weeks: Cork City Council criticised for turnaround times

The recent publication of the National Oversight and Audit Commission’s 2021 Performance Indicators for Local Authorities Report indicated that vacant council houses in Cork City were on average lying idle for 75 weeks.
Homes idle for 75 weeks: Cork City Council criticised for turnaround times

The report indicated that some council houses in Cork city are on average lying idle in Cork city for 75 weeks. Cork City Hall. Picture Denis Minihane.

CORK City Council has been criticised after a Government report showed that many council houses have been allowed to lie idle for long periods.

The recent publication of the National Oversight and Audit Commission’s 2021 Performance Indicators for Local Authorities Report indicated that vacant council houses in Cork City were on average lying idle for 75 weeks.

A spokesperson for Cork City Council confirmed to The Echo that the average turnaround in council houses in Cork City was 75 weeks in 2021, although this has reduced in 2022, and added there is a current vacancy rate of 3.7% for council houses in the city.

The results of the commission’s 2021 report prompted criticism from Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central, Thomas Gould.

“What we can clearly see is that the Voids Return Scheme isn’t working,” said Mr Gould.

“The idea was that local authorities would move towards a preventative maintenance scheme that would make the Voids scheme redundant.

“It is essentially allowing the problems to mount, and council houses to lie idle.

“We know that the distribution of these homes across the city is uneven.

“If houses in Cork City are, on average, sitting idle for 75 weeks, there is clearly more work to be done.

“That is almost a year and a half — but we know that there are properties lying idle for four years or longer.

“There are estates where huge portions of the houses are owned by Cork City Council and left to lie idle.

“This has huge impacts on anti-social behaviour, dumping and the overall atmosphere in communities,” he said.

Mr Gould said he expects turnaround times to be longer next year.

“The minister, Darragh O’Brien, has only given funding this year to re-let 144 out of almost 600 empty council houses in Cork,” he said.

“We can expect that these times will be longer next year. There are thousands of people waiting on these homes. Every week, people contact me and my office about boarded-up council houses. There are children who could be planning Christmas in these homes.”

Sinn Féin councillor Eolan Ryng said that only 34 homes were acquired or built by Cork City Council last year.

“Not only are Cork City Council taking the longest to re-let empty homes, but they also have the largest percentage of empty houses,” he said. “In 2021, Cork City Council only acquired or built 34 new homes. When we look at the number of homes sold, this means social housing stock only increased by 18 homes.

“There are hundreds of voids that could be brought back into use quickly and efficiently. It is better for the economy, the environment and most importantly for families and individuals trapped in the housing crisis.”

A Cork City Council spokesperson told The Echo that 310 council homes are under repair, with 89 awaiting tenancy out of an overall stock of over 10,700. “The average turnaround in council houses in Cork was 75 weeks as of 2021,” the spokesperson stated, adding that “310 homes are under repair with 89 awaiting tenancy out of an overall stock of over 10,700, giving a vacancy rate of just 3.7%”.

The spokesperson said that 230 weeks was the longest turnaround for one particular council house in Cork Cityin 2021, “which adversely affected the average re-letting figure. This was due to protracted legal reasons, followed by extensive repairs to the property.”

As of October 2022, the re-letting time has been reduced to 59 weeks, said the council spokesperson.

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