For a number of years I have been raising with successive Ministers for Housing and Local Government the need to provide adequate funding to local authorities for the Voids Programme.
The Voids Programme provides funding to local authorities to make habitable vacant Council houses. This issue has also to be prioritised by local authorities.
As well as tabling Parliamentary Questions to the new Housing Minister I also spoke with him specifically on this issue last week. I asked Minister O’Brien to ensure that applications to his Department are processed and finalised as quickly as possible. It is just not acceptable to have so many Council houses vacant throughout the country.
For Oral Answer on : 23/07/2020
Question Number(s): 55 Question Reference(s): 17656/20
Department: Housing, Planning and Local Government
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government if he will allocate additional funding to local authorities such as Cavan and Monaghan for the voids programme in 2020 in view of the financial pressures on local authorities; if he will reduce the local contribution needed for local authorities to draw down this funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The management and maintenance of local authority housing stock, including pre-letting repairs to vacant properties, the implementation of a planned maintenance programme and carrying out of responsive repairs, are matters for each individual local authority under Section 58 of the Housing Act 1966.
Since 2014, Exchequer funding has also been provided through my Department’s Voids Programme to support local authorities in preparing vacant units for re-letting. This funding was initially introduced to tackle long term vacant units and is now increasingly targeted at ensuring minimal turnaround and re-let times for local authority vacant stock. During 2019, expenditure of some €26.6 million was recouped to local authorities under the Voids Programme.
Cavan County Council has received €1.65 million in funding under the Voids Programme from 2014 to 2019, supporting 137 units being returned to use. Monaghan County Council received €1.97 million in funding over the same period supporting 184 units for re-let.
There is a two stage process for allocations under the Voids Programme for 2020. Firstly, on 26 May, there was an initial call for proposals for COVID-19 Voids funding for vacant units which were required for the emergency accommodation of qualified households arising from the need to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of COVID-19. The majority of works approved under this element of the programme are complete. Cavan County Council submitted 8 properties for assessment under the Covid-19 Voids Programme and have received approval for all 8 properties. Monaghan received approval for 6 units. A second call for proposals, under the non-Covid specific voids programme, will issue shortly and any funding submission received from local authorities will be actively considered.
It is important to note that there is no minimum local contribution sought from LAs under the voids programme and capped funding can optimized to cover 100% of the costs incurred.
It is also important that local authorities increasingly move toward a preventative maintenance approach to the management of their housing stock and my Department is working with local authorities to this end.