Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government Barry Cowen TD says new figures he has obtained show that the Department of Housing has failed to approve funding to refurbish approximately 1,449 housing units that are currently vacant.

Deputy Cowen said, “New information obtained by Fianna Fáil through a series of Freedom of Information requests to each Local Authority, shows a lack of progress in refurbishing vacant social housing units.

“According to the information we have received there are approximately 2,751 housing units still vacant throughout the country.

“The Department of Housing has informed us that it has approved funding to refurbish 1,302 vacant housing units. This means that there are approximately 1,449 vacant housing units that are yet to be allocated refurbishment funding.

“Minister Coveney has said that he is satisfied that the €24m allocated to refurbishing vacant units is adequate. However it is clear that his department is providing refurbishment funding for less than 50% of the vacant units that have been identified to date.

“It is also important to note that the Department of Housing is actually spending €9m less on refurbishing vacant properties as compared to 2015, despite the existence of so many vacant units.

“Minister Coveney needs to explain why refurbishing funding has not been allocated for 1,449 vacant units in the midst of a homelessness crisis. These units represent the ‘low hanging fruit’ of housing supply, which could be turned around quickly with a clearer strategy and direction from the Minister.

“To put the potential contribution of vacant houses to supply into perspective, only 75 new local authority houses were constructed in 2015.

“The Department needs to wake up and get all these units back to use as a matter of urgency. Refurbishing vacant units will provide much needed housing while we await the construction of new builds,” concluded Deputy Cowen.