Ireland

Most vacant council homes are empty for good reason, Taoiseach says

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar rejected the suggestion that the Government was not acting with enough urgency to address the housing emergency (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar rejected the suggestion that the Government was not acting with enough urgency to address the housing emergency (Brian Lawless/PA) Taoiseach Leo Varadkar rejected the suggestion that the Government was not acting with enough urgency to address the housing emergency (Brian Lawless/PA)

Most vacant council-owned homes are empty for good reason, Leo Varadkar has insisted.

Mr Varadkar was responding to criticism prompted by figures showing there are around 3,500 vacant council homes in Ireland.

The figures were released to Aontu leader Peadar Toibin through Freedom of Information requests to local authorities.

Mr Varadkar was asked about the issue as he spoke to reporters on a visit to Belfast on Monday.

He rejected the suggestion the Government was not acting with enough urgency to address housing shortages in Ireland.

Protest against HSE proposal to shut Navan A&E
Protest against HSE proposal to shut Navan A&E Aontu leader Peadar Toibin obtained the figures through Freedom of Information requests (Brian Lawless/PA).

“The urgency I think that’s been shown by government is demonstrated in the fact that we built more social housing last year than any year since the 1970s,” he said.

“And we will do that again this year, probably add about 10,000 social homes to the housing stock and that’s providing homes for thousands of families.

“In relation to vacancy, I looked at the figures. What that indicates that at any point in time about 2% or 3% of local authority houses are vacant. And they’re generally vacant for a reason.

“Sometimes they’re being refurbished; sometimes they’re being earmarked for demolition to be replaced by new complexes, you’ll see that all over Dublin; sometimes a tenant has moved out and a new tenant is about to move in.

“So you’ll always have a certain amount of vacancy.

“And if it’s in around 2% or 3% I think in the vast majority of cases, it’s vacancy for a good reason.”

Mr Toibin had a very different interpretation of the figures.

“It is incredible that in the jaws of a national emergency in terms of housing that well over 3,500 local authority homes are lying empty tonight,” he said.

“According to Aontu’s findings, there are enough empty local authority homes in the state to house well over half the number of people who are homeless.

“Much of the focus of the political bubble has been on the large number of empty homes in private hands. However, we in Aontu believe that it’s unforgivable that state bodies themselves preside over empty homes.

“Thousands of homeless people are living in emergency accommodation throughout the country at great human cost to themselves and at great financial cost to the state.”