Louth Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick raised the matter of unoccupied houses in Louth to the Minister of State for Housing in the Dáil this week.
Deputy Fitzpatrick said: "With more than 2 million houses and apartments in the State, and almost 200,000 lying empty, according to the Simon Communities in Ireland, it is about time that the Government took the housing crisis seriously."
He continued: "I live in County Louth, the smallest county in Ireland. Our local authority has more than 60 unoccupied houses.
"These include voids, where the people who once lived there have passed away, others which have been subject to compulsory purchase order, or houses which are vacant for other reasons. The local authority is crying out for help.
"There are thousands on the waiting list. There is also a great deal of land in Louth. For some unknown reason, however, the Government has stopped our local authority from building houses. We have the land. All we need is a bit of funding."
The Independent TD went on to say: "Is there any chance that the Government could use Louth, the smallest county in Ireland, in a pilot scheme to get 60 families off the waiting list and build these houses directly?’
"The Government keeps talking about billions of euro, but it would not cost big money to get this sorted out. I saw three houses yesterday in Dundalk.
"It would only take a little paint work and other works to get this done. If the council boards up these houses, it will cost tens of thousands of euro. Let us sort out the problem."
The Louth TD continued: "In response to my question in the case of County Louth, Damien English responded:
'There is no block on allowing the local authority to develop houses. In fact, we have engaged with the council on several projects. We have more than 60 projects going through the pipeline at the moment to develop houses.
'The council has a large land bank that carries a great deal of debt. We are happy to work with the council on that to bring forward housing solutions, including a combination of private, public and affordable housing, if needs be.'
"I have persisted to Damien English that it is not happening", said Fitzpatrick
Minister English responded:
‘It is up to Louth County Council to bring forward a plan, and we are happy to engage on that. I wish to be clear on vacancies. We have used Louth as the best example of a local authority that has tackled vacancies.
'The council has gone out on many occasions in recent years under various schemes through which we have allocated money.
'The council has been successful in bringing forward vacant houses that belonged to the private sector. The council took them over through schemes and brought them back into use.
'We are encouraging the council to do more of that. We certainly reward counties where that is done and Louth is one that has successfully achieved this.’
Deputy Fitzpatrick concluded:
"I know of 60 families who desperately need housing. I see this first hand in my constituency. Everyday I am contacted by families who are in dire need. Families require suitable housing. People are living in constant uncertainty. I appeal to the Minister of State to come to County Louth and sort this out."