Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Dublin John Lahart has revealed that over 1,800 houses and apartments, repossessed by banks and other financial institutions, have been offered to local authorities for use as social housing. However councils have only accepted 241 of them.

Under the initiative, a total of 1,860 repossessed properties have been offered to the Housing Agency.  It then provides a list of these available properties to local authorities, who confirm whether or not they have ‘demand’ to use them as social housing and whether or not they can then be sold ‘at cost’ to Approved Housing Bodies.

Deputy Lahart said, “The rejection of such a large number of houses and apartments by local authorities shows the dysfunction at the heart of social and affordable housing policy. At a time when fewer than 400 social homes were built by councils nationwide in 2016, it’s preposterous that local authorities are turning down over 1,800 units.

“What’s even more worrying is the fact that despite the housing crisis being most acute in Dublin, not one of the local authorities in the Greater Dublin area completed a single social housing unit in the first quarter of this year.

“There is anecdotal evidence that one of the main reasons that local authorities are refusing these units is because of policy directives from the Department of Housing which aim to prevent an overconcentration of social housing in any one area.  However, these guidelines need to be more flexible in the context of the current housing emergency; otherwise any sort of progress will be curtailed.

“Local authorities should also be given the freedom to acquire properties from financial institutions or NAMA and use them as they see fit, rather than being stymied by rigid Departmental rules.  If they were given more leeway we could see some of these idle units used for social housing, while others could be rented out.  As it stands at the moment, councils’ hands are tied by the Department.

“Council executives need to be trusted with greater autonomy and more responsibility and held accountable if they do not deliver.

“There should also be a review carried out by Department, and made public, about why so many of these properties were turned down”.