Concerns expressed over viability of Housing Assistance Payments in Dundalk
Louth County Council has acquired 35 vacant houses by compulsory purchase over the past 15 months, and has a further 30 in the pipeline.
Guidance on the use of compulsory purchase orders (CPO) is expected to form part of a vacancy strategy being drafted by the Department of Housing, which has been told by the Attorney General, Séamus Woulfe SC, that there is no impediment to using the process to acquire vacant properties.
Louth Council Council uses powers contained in the Housing Act 1996 to acquire non-derelict homes that are vacant, as part of the local authority’s obligation to provide housing.
Appeals against the process go to An Bord Pleanala (ABP) which usually holds a hearing within six weeks and gives a decision within a further month.
To date there have been three appeals, two of which have been won by the council.
The council is the most active user of CPOs in response to the housing crisis and has been cited as such by the department, with the council’s policy of seeking to seize vacant properties has had a number of positive effects over and above the provision of social housing in established neighbourhoods.
These include encouraging the owners of vacant properties to put them back into use, and encouraging residents’ associations and individuals to bring vacant properties to the attention of the authority.
Statistics indicate that approximately 8 per cent of houses in the council’s area are vacant. There are 4,000 people on the council’s housing list, and people can be waiting for as long as nine years.
A significant proportion of the estimated 180,000 vacant homes in the State are ones that have been seized by banks and other financial businesses and sources say these can be left vacant for up to a year or more by these institutions as they bring them to a point where they can be sold.