Monday, April 13, 2009


Scandal of Empty Accommodation Despite Lengthening Housing Lists

The list of people requiring housing by Fingal County Council and across Ireland is increasing rapidly, and until relatively recently, it would have been easy for the general public and the media to assume that this was because there was a shortage of empty accommodation. However alarming statistics have shown that this is not the case. Figures from the 2006 Census revealed that in Fingal, there were 7,878 vacant dwellings including houses, flats and holiday homes. Since the release of these figures there were quite a number of new house builds, and the recession has resulted in a large increase in the number of properties currently unoccupied.

It is estimated the Fingal has 400 unsold units which were designated for affordable housing. Many of these units can cost the County Council up to €1,000 per month in loan repayments. Newly built Local Authority homes in 2007 (figures for 2008 are not yet available) numbered only 200 in Fingal, plus a paltry 12 voluntary sector houses. The current housing waiting list for Fingal is approximately 5,500, an estimation which has caused much anger amongst the public and their representatives.

Local Sinn Féin election candidate Fergus Byrne said: "Housing is a right, not a privilege. Both central and local government have a responsibility to ensure that those who cannot afford to secure adequate housing in the market place are provided with housing that meets their needs. The government met their targets of 2007 and 2008 of building 9,000 social housing units across the country per year, but this is nowhere near adequate to even make a noticeable dent in the local housing lists. I believe that we need new policies to deal with this crisis, for example unsold affordable housing units, of which there are many in Fingal, should be secured by the County Council for social use."

"Sinn Féin has policies which, if implemented, would greatly alleviate the problems faced by so many middle-income and lower earners who cannot afford to buy private homes." Said Byrne: "We are campaigning for increased resources from the Government to enable local authorities such as Fingal County Council to increase their housing output. By combining Government capital grants and the Rental Accommodation Scheme, Fingal County Council could seek loans or investment capital to acquire unsold units from the private market, provided they were of the appropriate standard, in suitable locations, value for money for the taxpayer, and involved a low level of financial risk to the Council. Dublin City Council are already examining a similar concept."

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