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In Navan, Co Meath, there are more vacant properties than there are people on the housing waiting list

Whole swathes of the Flower Hill neighbourhood in Navan currently stand derelict.

20170602_144313 A row of boarded up houses in Flower Hill, Navan

I’ve spoken to so many people who end up couch surfing because they can’t find places – it takes a toll on friendships, on personal relationships…

New figures reveal the extent to which Co Meath is dealing with a vacant/derelict housing crisis, with the figures for such run-down properties only exceeded by the number of people on the social housing waiting list.

The numbers, released to Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín by the local council, show that on top of the 3,800 people currently waiting for social housing in the Leinster county, there are also some 2,343 vacant or derelict properties sitting unused.

In county town Navan, the figures are even more stark – 626 empty properties, and 451 on the waiting list.

“There is a major issue with regards to vacant houses and derelict houses in Meath,” says Tóibín.

Some of this land has been tied up with banking debt and disputes, and some of it is in the arms of developers. But there’s more of it where the Council simply doesn’t know who owns the damned house.

Tóibín says it is “those on the list who are suffering most”, and points to the Flower Hill neighbourhood of Navan as being symptomatic of the problem.

“There are sections there which are whole streets that are completely derelict, burnt out, windows smashed in. They’re physically dangerous,” he says.

It’s having a really depressing effect on local businesses.

Local man Brendan McGill agrees.


34-year-old McGill has been on the housing list close to Flower Hill for five years. He sees the lack of certainty over housing as a social ill, and the vast amount of dereliction isn’t helping.

“There’s a lot of anti-social behaviour going on in the area. Five houses have burnt down since I’ve been here. Kids lighting a fire and it gets out of hand,” he says.

Brendan was recently worried that he would become homeless after the house he rents was put up for sale. Fortunately the new owner was happy for him to remain as tenant.

“There’s such a lack of housing in Meath and Navan. I couldn’t find anywhere in the town that would accept rent allowance or HAP (Housing Assistance Payment),” he says.

Kells Boarded-up houses in Kells, north-west of Navan

I’ve spoken to so many people who end up couch surfing because they can’t find places, it takes a toll on friendships, on personal relationships. The amount of council-owned properties that are boarded up in the town.

No stable environment

Louise (not her real name) has been on the housing list in Meath for six years. She splits her time with her partner and eight-year-old daughter between two different towns in the county.

“It’s not sleeping on a couch, no, but we don’t have a stable environment at the moment,” she says.

For her, it would be “an absolutely massive thing” to be able to come off the list.

“Deposits these days are absolutely enormous. You’re probably talking €2,500 to €3,000 to get into a place. We can’t go anywhere because we don’t have that kind of money,” she says.

90388703_90388703 Peadar Tóibín Source: Leah Farrell

While she acknowledges that the vacant housing issue “isn’t so bad” where she is based, she can also think of a nearby ghost estate where the vast majority of unoccupied houses have fallen into dereliction.

“There’s a new build though going up near us, and some of it has been designated for social,” she says. “That would be amazing for us.”

At the moment I don’t want to talk to people about it. Most of my friends have rented accommodation.
I look at what I see and read in the papers, and it makes me think I’m lucky, like. It’s good and bad, but I don’t want this for me and my child.

Housing register

TheJournal.ie queried of Meath County Council (MCC) as to the regional split of derelict housing across the county, and asked whether MCC is one of the local authorities that has begun a register of vacant/derelict properties in its area (as they are required to do by the State).

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A response had not been received at time of publication.

Earlier this year the Government introduced a Repair and Leasing scheme with a view to bringing vacant or damaged properties back into circulation around the country, the idea being to aid owners unable to afford repairs in bringing their properties up to a standard where renting becomes a viable possibility.

It’s understood that since that scheme’s inception just two applications have been made under it in Co Meath.

But the answers to the issue of such properties going to ruin are uncomplicated according to Tóibín.

“Local authorities need to be given more power for Compulsory Purchase Orders (measures which see property owners forced to sell whether they want to or not), and to fine property owners for gross dereliction of the houses they own,” he says.

“A vacant site tax should have been introduced three years ago. The Government is going to consider it from the beginning of 2019 which is a delay we could do without.”


Whatever it is (the tax), it needs to be at a high enough level to motivate owners. If land is appreciating by up to 20% then anyone can do the maths – the level of appreciation will outstrip the tax liability. So there’s no incentive to do anything with the property.

“One thing’s for sure – something needs to happen. Rental properties are as rare as hens’ teeth in Meath. The population has increased at the fastest rate in the country, and rents are appreciating at the actual fastest rate. It’s not sustainable.”

“For sure we have to get the people in charge to do something,” says Brendan McGill.

I really don’t think that local government are taking the issue seriously enough.
They should be getting the owners to do up these houses and rent them out.

He does allow that “there’s the impression that the council is extremely swamped”.

“But there’s not enough of a fuss about it.”

There are houses around here that have been boarded up for five years. And then when someone exits rental of a social house, the turnaround time is like six months. That’s just crazy.

“We need a vacant house tax or something like it. These houses have been empty for too long.”

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