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Department denies 'cooking the books' on vacant council housing

The Department rejected Eoin O’Broin’s contention.

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Image: RollingNews.ie

THE DEPARTMENT OF Housing has denied accusations that it is “cooking the books” when it reports on vacant council housing.

Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Broin says that a parliamentary question he asked shows a disparity in the numbers reported.

The reply claims that 8,512 Council voids were returned to stock between 2014 and 2017 while a 2016 report by the National Oversight and Audit Commission indicated that there was a total of 4,202 council voids in the system in 2014.

However, the Department argues that O’Broin is mistaken.

O’Broin says that long-term vacant homes can help solve the housing crisis.

“At a time of acute housing need, there has been significant pressure on Councils to ensure that Council properties that become vacant are relet as quickly as possible.

“A number of years ago, it was revealed that there were a large number of long-term vacant houses that Council not be let out because they did not have the money to refurbish them. These units had essentially fallen out of Council stock.

“It appears that either the Councils underreported the real level of long term vacancy when reporting to NOAC for the 2016 report or that the Department of Housing are not only including Council units that have been brought back into use after a long period of vacancy but also those that are just being relet from one tenant to another.

“No matter what the explanation is, this looks suspiciously like a case of cooking the books to make the figures look better.”

The Department rejected O’Broin’s contention. In a statement to TheJournal.ie, it said:

“The NOAC report identified that in Autumn 2015, there were 4,202 housing units vacant.

“7,100 is the number of vacant houses re-let from January 2014, over a year and a half earlier, up to the end of 2016. The 8,512 figure includes the 7,100 up to end 2016 and the 2017 target of 1,400.”

The Voids Programme, introduced in 2014 provides additional support to local authorities in preparing vacant units for reletting. This funding is available as an additional support over and above what local authorities provide themselves towards such work.

There were 2,326, 2,696 and 2,090 vacant social homes brought back into productive use in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Overall, there are around 80,000 vacant homes in Ireland, with around 8,500 homeless people.

Read: Leo Varadkar has been criticised for calling houses starting at €315,000 ‘affordable’

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