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Cllr Byrne / ‘Funding welcome in desperate families’ housing plight’

Louth County Council Joanna Byrne
Joanna Byrne raised the issue at the September monthly meeting of Drogheda Borough Council. Photo Credit: Adrian Crawley.

Funding of just short of €850,000 has been made available to Louth County Council to return vacant properties in the county back into residential use, an announcement Sinn Féin’s Joanna Byrne has welcomed.

But the Drogheda-based councillor says the money is a “far cry” from what is needed to bring the stock of current vacant properties up to standard to help ease the housing shortage in the county.

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Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien announced on Tuesday that €40 million of funding was being made available nationally for the return of, what the department estimated to be 2,500 vacant local authority properties to productive use.

Minister O’Brien said the properties can be “re-let to individuals and families struggling with homelessness or on the social housing list. I have asked local authorities to take immediate steps to ensure that work on refurbishing vacant homes begins straight away.

A pot of €847,865 has been made available to Louth County Council to bring the void housing back into stock. Last year, Cllr Byrne tabled a motion at a full council meeting that councillors request that the then Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, in conjunction with the Department of Finance release additional funds for the immediate restoration of all vacant properties, rather than just long-term voids.

The motion passed but the funding was not forthcoming.

“I am really pleased to see this funding released to Louth and for it to be dedicated to this particular plight,” Cllr Byrne said in a statement.

“The turnaround of these properties will mean families will be able to have their forever homes. Louth has 84 voids throughout the county that need to brought back into use and successfully allocated to 84 families in desperate need of permanent, secure housing.”

“Although this amount of funding is a far cry from what is needed, I do think it is a welcome announcement and I look forward to seeing many of these vacant properties turned around into sustainable homes for our constituents.”

What Is A Void?

Click below to read a definition of ‘void housing’.

As of July this year, Louth County Council has 84 void housing units – five in Ardee and Mid-Louth, 17 in the Drogheda Borough District and 46 in the Dundalk Municipal area. In addition to 16 homes purchased via Compulsory Purchase Order, some of these homes will be brought up to standard for live social housing stock with the funding available.

A further 34 properties have been used by the council as temporary accommodation for isolation or to cater for homeless persons during the Covid-19 pandemic over the last four months.

A Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) is a notice received by a landowner stating that their land or property is going to be compulsorily purchased by a state agency, such as a local authority – in this instance Louth County Council – or National Roads Authority. This can occur when land or property needs to be purchased in order to develop or upgrade roads and infrastructure, erect ESB lines, lay gas pipe lines, etc.

Local councils, as has increasingly been the case in recent years, can also use CPO’s to take control of vacant properties in an area, with a view to carrying our repairs and renovations for making the property suitable for social housing.

“Louth County Council has very successfully re-opened an amount of voids throughout Covid-19 to facilitate additional homeless need and distancing / isolation needs. This has set the bar now for what can be done. All three categories here are applicable to issues in Louth and I will be urging the Director of Services for Housing, Paddy Donnelly, to pursue all three avenues for funding,” Cllr Byrne added.

The funding will be split into three categories – Standard Refurbishment with a maximum outlay of €12,500 per unit which will see houses re-let to persons or families on the social housing list this year, Homeless Refurbishment targeted towards long-term homeless households, capped at €20,000 and Long-Term Vacant Refurbishment, where the local authority will target long-term vacant units (greater than 12 months) which require extensive works. There will be no upper limit set and individual submissions will be assessed on a case by case basis.

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