Cllr Liam Galvin wants the council to write to owners
THERE are 602 names on the council’s housing waiting list in West Limerick alone while the waiting list for city and county now stands at 5,202.
But Limerick City and County Council in tackling the issue plans to bring hundreds of vacant and semi-derelict houses back into use as part of its overall housing strategy.
“We are going to walk the street, identify the owners and pro-actively make contact with owners,” director of services Gordon Daly said at a meeting of Newcastle West Municipal District this Wednesday where figures revealed that there are now over 8,460 vacant dwellings in Limerick as a whole, 5,899 of these in Co Limerick.
The figures also show that of the 602 waiting for housing in West Limerick, almost a third, 193 are in Newcastle West. The list for Abbeyfeale stands at 81 while the figure for Adare is 78 and for Rathkeale is 36.
In its housing programme for 2018-2021, Limerick City and County Council has set a target of 1600 housing units for Limerick as a whole, council official Seamus Hanrahan told the Newcastle West councillors and he expected that about 60% of these would be new build, with the remainder being leased or bought.
However, he said, there is a significant number of vacant houses that can be re-used, outlining the details of the two new schemes that aim to make this a reality.
The Repair and Lease Scheme makes €40,000 available to carry out repair works on a house vacant for at least 12 months.
The house can then be leased by the council for a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 20 years. The house, however, never becomes the property of the council.
Under a second scheme, the Buy and Renew Scheme, the council will buy houses, repair and upgrade them and then make them available for social housing.
This scheme has the twin aim of providing homes but also tackling urban dereliction and improving streetscapes.
Welcoming the schemes, Cllr Liam Galvin said the council should be writing to property owners in every town and village.
“This is a no-brainer,” he said. “Let’s promote it. Let’s take it on.”
Towns and village with the highest demand will be targeted first, and the council will first target houses that are for sale, Mr Daly told him.
But Cllr Francis Foley cautioned that bringing houses back into use in areas where the waiting list is low is also crucial, and helps preserve communities and facilities.
He also argued that lack of sewerage systems was preventing new houses from being built in many rural villages.
“The figure of 193 for Newcastle West is inaccurate,” Cllr Michael Collins said.
It also included people who would prefer to be housed in smaller towns or villages but did not see any possibility of that happening.
The new schemes outlined could change this however and he urged officials to revisit the lists with this in mind.
But Mr Daly also warned that “sitting on a vacant property” was no longer an option for owners and the council would use its powers under the Derelict Sites legislation “more forcefully” against owners.
“We do want that message to go out loud and clear.”
The council, he said, had been patient over the last five or six years when it was difficult to find new uses for vacant premises.
But he added: “These schemes now exist.”