Fianna Fáil Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen has expressed disbelief in the policy being pursued by Department of Environment on funding vacant social housing and voids refurbishment in Local Authorities.
Deputy Cowen commented: “Data released under Freedom of Information to Fianna Fáil shows there is a shocking number of vacant social housing units owned by local authorities around the country.
“Despite the fact that 3,000 housing units are sitting idle in Local Authority areas, in most instances in need of refurbishment before they can be given to families on the social housing waiting list, the Department actually cut the refurbishment budget for 2015 by €6 million.
“Minister Kelly continues to claim that he is targeting the return of vacant houses to productive use as a priority for addressing the escalating homelessness crisis and housing shortages. He has repeatedly claimed that Local Authority executives have been slow and unwilling to refurbish vacant houses and return them to productive use. However, information revealed to me from the Department via Parliamentary Question puts paid to Minister Kelly’s false shifting of blame to local authorities.
“The PQ response reveals that the Department’s void refurbishment and renovation programme is capped at €30,000 per unit. This is an utterly insane policy while 3,000 houses are lying vacant.
“The Minister is willing to commit €100,000 to build a single temporary modular housing unit, but will not allow the refurbishment of a permanent housing unit if it costs above €30,000. While many of these homes already owned by local authorities are in need of significant repair, they could provide long-term homes for a family on the social housing list for much less than €100,000 and in a shorter time frame. It was also revealed this week that the Minister is actually underspending on the Budget allocated to his Department this year. Why is there such a small cap on housing refurbishment, when he is not capable of even spending the budget allocated to his Department?
“This is further evidence that Minister Kelly is more interested in making big-bang PR announcements than in actually engaging in the hard slog of sensible policy-making to provide homes for homeless or at risk households.”