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Government confirm 54 social housing voids to come online in Louth

County Hall, Dundalk
A view of the Louth County Council building in Dundalk. Photo Credit: Adrian Crawley.

It has been confirmed a total of 54 vacant properties in Louth will be brought up to standard for social housing allocation by the end of the year.

LouthNow.ie reported last week that between 50 and 60 properties were earmarked by Louth County Council for refurbishment as part of central government stimulus funding aimed at bringing void housing back into stock.

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Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien announced last month 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. A pot of €847,865 had been made available to Louth County Council to bring the void housing back into stock.

The Minister confirmed on Tuesday that up to 2,500 units will be refurbished nationally and 54 of them will be in Louth.

The local authority have been succcessful in filing applications for 54 properties which will see €747,850 of that total allocated to Louth County Council to fund the works on vacant social housing units returned to use.

The funding available to the local authority is 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.

Louth County Council made 44 applications for Standard Refurbishment, seven at Homeless Refurbishment and four for Long Term Vacant Refurbishment.

A further 30 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 five months. These properties are also classed as vacant.

Currently, Louth County Council has 87 void housing units – six in Ardee and Mid-Louth, 18 in the Drogheda Borough District and 49 in the Dundalk Municipal area.

In addition to 14 homes purchased via Compulsory Purchase Order, the local authority aim to have a large chunk of these homes brought up to standard for live social housing stock with the funding available.

“A total of 54 Units will be returned to use under this funding,” Louth Senator Erin McGreehan said. “This is very welcome news.

“It is no secret that every year the local authority struggles due to budgets to get vacant social houses back into use, this will hopefully go a long way in getting social housing units across the county so that they can be re-let to individuals and families struggling with homelessness or on the social housing list.”

Fine Gael Senator Fergus O’Dowd welcomed the news too, saying; “Nationally 2,398 applications from Local Authorities across Ireland have been approved at a cost of €39.8 million, with further applications anticipated.

“This funding will provide much needed stimulus to refurbish and re-let 54 social housing units in the county, which will help individuals and families who are struggling with homelessness or who are on the social housing list.

“The Department is in a position to approve these applications and the council can now begin its work on making these vacant units available for individuals and families so they can start a new chapter in their lives and make a home for themselves,” O’Dowd added.

EXPLAINER

What is a ‘void’ and what is a ‘CPO’?

Speaking last week, Louth County Council’s Director of Services for Housing Paddy Donnelly outlined some of the challenges associated with meeting the criteria of the funding and bringing the homes back online by the end of the year.

“It’s challenging. It has to be done by the end of November,” he said.

“Our contractor framework is quite limited. A lot of these contractors are at max capacity. We have focused additional staff resources on that. We will look at properties that are easer to return into service and get tenants allocated. We hope to have tenants allocated and in by the first week in December.”

Mr Donnelly said it was difficult to secure the amount of contractors they needed for the various work. “Most of these works require 10-12 weeks to turn a property around. We have already turned around a few already. It is the focus of the engineering team.”

He also added the local authority had not been informed whether or not they would lose the remainder of funding if all is not spent by the deadline.

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