Louth TD calls on Government to get proactive on vacant housing
Fianna Fáil TD Declan Breathnach spoke in the Dáil recently on a motion on affordable housing and has contacted the Dundalk Democrat to outline his ideas for change.
"While the Government are finally acknowledging that we have a housing crisis", the Louth TD stated, "little follow-up has happened on the various initiatives they introduced over the last two years since this Dáil commenced, such as the Repair and Leasing Scheme which has had a very poor take-up, and the establishment of a Vacant Homes Unit within the Department."
Deputy Breathnach continued:
"I outlined that Louth County Council has a great track record on acquiring vacant properties under CPO.
"They use 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.
"The Director of Housing in Louth has said that from start to finish, if the property is in reasonable condition, there can be someone in the property within eight months.
"The Minister needs to get tough on other Local Authorities who are not fulfilling their obligations in relation to vacant properties."
Commenting on the recent homeless figures released, the Louth TD said, "When you look at the homeless figures, it is imperative that urgent action is taken.
"In Louth, 65 people presented as homeless in January 2018, and a further 79 tenancies are being supported in order to prevent families becoming homeless."
"We could also deal with the unscrupulous Vulture Funds coming in to buy up distressed mortgages and the housing problem in one move – by offering distressed mortgaged properties to the Local Authorities at the same knock-down prices that the vulture funds are getting them for."
"In Louth, there is a significant number of vacant dwellings arising from defaulting housing loans or actual repossession orders. I would feel It represents 80% of all vacant dwellings, the balance being in legal difficulties such as probate or will dispute.
"The financial institutions have in the first instance targeted the buy to let sector or defaulting landlords. The relevant point here is that a large number of these dwellings are former local authority units and thus would be very suitable to the needs of the local authority.
The Fianna Fáil TD concluded by focusing on the work being done at Local Authority level at present.
"In relation to the good work being done at Local Authority level to solve the housing crisis", Deputy Breathnach said, "I asked a Parliamentary Question last year on the number of approved housing bodies and staff employed.
"There are 547 Approved Housing Bodies employing approximately 6,500 staff. This has denuded the Local Authorities of their responsibilities in this area.
"If responsibility for housing provision was given back to the Local Authorities, we would have a more streamlined process, with one set of managers and administrators per local authority area instead of the 100’s managing the Approved Housing Bodies, but this as I know would be opening up a whole new can of worms!"