Thursday, 17 June 2010
Dáil Éireann Debate
Deputy Chris Andrews: In Dublin South East over the past 18 months I have noticed an increasing number of flats being left vacant even though there is a massive demand for social housing. Social housing lists are under severe strain. In Dublin 2, Dublin 4, Dublin 6 and Dublin 8 there are more than 240 flats lying idle. At a conservative estimate, that would accommodate 500 people. This would cater for a significant number of individuals and families who could live in more suitable accommodation. At present, there are adults with two or three children living in a one-bedroom flat while they see a vacant two-bedroom flat next door. It appears that nothing is done with these properties. The people are obviously frustrated.
A person came to me recently and told me he was considering squatting. I cannot blame people for this. I would probably do the same if I was in his shoes. However, that will not solve the Minister’s difficulties. The Minister has done a major job and allocated considerable funding. Some €7 million has been allocated to retrofitting voids and energy ratings, €2 million has been allocated to compliance with new rental standards and €1.7 million has been allocated for improvement works on flats. Under section 58 of the Housing Act 1966, the management and maintenance of local authority housing stock, which is largely financed from internal resources, is a matter of for each housing authority. During the boom years, Dublin City Council used to employ contractors to improve the flats and subsequently allocate them. Now, times are different. BER statements are taking a considerable length of time and the local authorities are failing to certify flats. If the prospective tenant is willing to accept a flat in its current condition, it should be allocated on that basis. This would allow the accommodation and the housing stock to be used up. The Minister has developed initiatives to ease the pressure on the social housing list. I am not sure how much support he is getting from the local authorities. He has drawn up a range of measures to tackle the difficulties and challenges of the social housing lists.
It is not acceptable that some 240 flats in a very small area are lying idle and this matter should not be left to the council. That accommodation should be allocated as a matter of urgency. The Government should intervene and tell the manager that the job is not being done. I am not sure where the council spends money or whether it has been allocated enough money. However, a scheme should be set up so that an emergency fund is provided and Dublin City Council must meet certain targets before money is allocated to the council.
Deputy Seán Connick: I thank Deputy Andrews for giving me an opportunity to outline the significant funding and progress on refurbishment of vacant Dublin City Council flats in Dublin South-East and elsewhere. My colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for housing and local services, Deputy Michael Finneran, supports an ambitious social housing programme with new and ongoing projects under way throughout the country. It is a matter for Dublin City Council to determine the content of their programmes including any plans for social housing refurbishment in Dublin South-East, taking into account existing commitments, priority projects and any related co-funding and timescale considerations subject to compliance with any necessary departmental sanction, terms and conditions.
Some €179.085 million was allocated to the city council for its social housing programme in 2010, including €94.340 million for housing supply and €75.745 million for housing improvement. The housing improvement allocation included €62.295 million for regeneration, €2.7 million for remedial works, €7 million for retrofitting voids and energy upgrades, €2 million for compliance with new rental standards and €1.75 million for improvement works, such as extensions and conversions to meet special needs.
The Minister of State with responsibility for housing and local services is also committed to a multi-annual regeneration programme in Dublin city to help to improve the lives and conditions of the communities involved. Over the past decade, the Government has invested more than €100 million in the Dublin City Council inner city flats regeneration programme and the Minister has allocated a further €11.5 million in 2010 to support regeneration and improvement works in the inner city area.
The end 2007 report showed that a total of 5,090 dwellings, excluding those that were subject to major refurbishment programmes, were empty across the country. This represented 4.3% of the total stock of 118,000 dwellings. The 2008 report shows a decrease of 1,231 on the 2007 total — a 24% improvement — bringing the number of vacant units down nationally to 3,859, or 3.15% of total stock.
In order to achieve further improvements, especially energy efficiency improvements, a fund of €40 million was set aside in 2010 to provide co-funding for the retrofitting of vacant properties, both casual and planned, across local authority housing stock. The allocation to Dublin City Council of €7 million for retrofitting voids and energy upgrades, €2.7 million for remedial works and €2 million for compliance with new rented standards will have a very positive impact on improving vacant houses and flats across the city, to facilitate the early re-letting of such properties.
I point out that under section 58 of the Housing Act 1966, the management and maintenance of local authority housing stock is a matter for individual authorities. I am happy to say that Dublin City Council has the full support from the Minister of State with responsibility for housing for its social housing investment programme and, in particular, for its delivery of a range of housing responses to meet additional housing needs.
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